In the early winter months of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic got out of China and went global. At the time, disease experts were curious about the potential for waves of cases, as this is a known pattern from other pandemics centered around viruses. Thus far, at the time of writing, this seems to be the case with COVID-19. A summer surge happened as anticipated, with the second wave of coronavirus happening in the fall. This rise, decline and then larger rise mean cases are increasing during the second wave. Why is this happening?

Why Are Cases Rising in the Second Wave of Coronavirus?

The primary cause behind the spike in coronavirus cases driving the second wave is simply human activity, or the lack thereof. Coronavirus pandemic response has been anything but uniform. Individual citizens, businesses and even entire governments have had various responses. Whereas some diligently follow pandemic precautions, others eschew the advised actions. Some even declare the virus to be a hoax or blown out of proportion.

Some states and communities have gone into full-blown lockdowns or placed restrictions on how many citizens can gather at one time indoors. Others are just operating as normally as ever. Coronavirus pandemic response has gotten very political, with many government leaders mandating or encouraging social distancing and mask-wearing. Others refuse to do so, saying it’s an infringement on personal freedoms.

Despite the politics of it, the data is quite clear. Areas with lower rates of mask-wearing and higher rates of indoor gatherings result in higher rises in confirmed cases. This is fueling the second wave of coronavirus much harder in some areas than others.

Certain environments or institutions are also more likely to spread the coronavirus. These include prisons, long-term care facilities, and multigenerational households. Even in a family home, social distancing is necessary, as is keeping the numbers of people around as low as possible.

Doesn’t the Increase in Coronavirus Testing Mean Higher Case Numbers?

Testing is more widely spread during the second wave than the first wave, due to more tests being made and available. However, that alone doesn’t account for the rise in positive test results. That’s because the numbers of symptomatic people, the volume of hospitalized patients and the number of eventual fatalities are all also going up in similar patterns at the same time.

Coronavirus Pandemic Spikes After “Reopenings”

Communities and states started relaxing their early coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the middle of 2020, as it seemed case volumes were stable enough to not overwhelm hospital systems. Members of the public were obviously enthusiastic about getting out and resuming some sense of normalcy in life.

However, the virus was still around enough to start spreading more as people were more active and interacted with one another. “Pandemic fatigue” became a complication, as people started getting tired of constantly wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, and checking themselves and loved ones for symptoms. This happened, despite pleas from health experts for everyone to continue being diligent about this.

Is There a Second Wave of Coronavirus in Europe?

Time Magazine has partnered with Johns Hopkins University to run a coronavirus tracker that covers the European continent, along with other areas. As of late October, they announced that many countries on that continent were recording their highest caseloads per day going back to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Eastern European countries were afflicted, including Croatia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. However, Western Europe also saw spikes in their positive cases, as records were being broken in Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Portugal.

The Czech Republic and Belgium were the two peaks of the continental spike, with their national caseloads averaging three to five times as much as the average continental count during the second wave of coronavirus. Epidemiologists and statisticians are still sifting through the data looking for a cause behind this. One working theory is that their relatively higher population densities are to blame. 

More people in less space means more interactions and less physical distancing. This is the perfect storm for the coronavirus to spread, as evidenced by its early spikes in urban areas across the United States before moving on to more rural areas.

Tracking a Surge

COVID-19 can be in someone for two weeks before they show any symptoms. As such, anytime there are policy changes for lessening restrictions on businesses and the public, it’s at least a week or so before the corresponding increase in cases shows up as hard data. The actual impact isn’t known for up to two months, once information is collected and analyzed for positive coronavirus cases, symptomatic patients, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Do Seasons Matter in COVID-19?

There was some hope early on that the coronavirus would simply disappear during the summer, much as the flu often does. However, the coronavirus is especially infectious, so this didn’t happen. Even though summer didn’t slay the disease, fall and winter are turning out to be a breeding ground for fueling the second wave of coronavirus. People are spending more time indoors due to shorter days, colder temperatures, and inclement weather.

Why Is the Second Wave of Coronavirus More Dangerous Than the First?

The first wave resulted from very small groups of infected people, meaning it needed longer to spread around. Now that it’s everywhere, there is a substantially higher risk of transmission.

In addition to the shortened daylight hours and weather, fall and winter mean numerous holidays, particularly from late November through early January. Families and friends traditionally gather together for celebrations and social companionship. Travel is also very common.

The year of 2020 has been exhausting for many, and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic itself. Working from home, a serious economic recession, a hotly disputed election season, racial protest, and many canceled activities have all burned many people out. They’re looking for any chance to be with people and unwind, even if it means participating in activities that spread the virus even more.

Is Anything About the Second Wave of Coronavirus Better Than the First?

Early evidence in the second wave of coronavirus indicates that there will be far more total cases than the first wave. That’s also going to mean more overall deaths. Having said that, CNN has reported that the death rates might actually be lower than before.

It’s not because the coronavirus virus is less deadly than before. In fact, there might be mutations of the virus that are worse than the initial strain already in play. However, there are two factors potentially behind this.

First, the second wave of coronavirus may be hitting younger victims on average. The early pandemic struck the elderly populations of North America and Europe very quickly, especially in hospitals and long-term care facilities. That resulted in a high average of victims. Since then, such facilities and the older populations have gotten a lot more careful about preventing the spread of the disease, as there is much more awareness and knowledge about it than there was back then.

Younger victims tend to have much higher chances of survival of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing down the fatality rate. Take that information with a grain of salt, however, because this also means that the coronavirus is simply spreading through more of the population.

The second factor that is definitely good news is that doctors, physicians, and hospitals are getting much more adept at treatment methods for hospitalized patients, as they’ve learned a lot about keeping people alive throughout all their cases. Early in the pandemic, a shortage of potentially life-saving ventilators was a concern across the United States. However, since then, many physicians have learned to avoid them, as they can result in lung injuries for COVID-19 patients.

Statistics demonstrate success in some areas of patient survival. Fatalities among coronavirus patients in the New York University hospital system have declined from 26 percent down to 8 percent, from March to August of 2020. On a similar note, intensive care patients across the British Isles saw their fatality rate drop from nearly 40 percent, down to 12 percent.

No single treatment is proving to be a cure for every patient, but the creativity and constant work of healthcare workers in many countries have led to a number of techniques and tactics that are saving lives.

How Long Does Coronavirus Immunity Last?

At the time of writing, it’s honestly unknown how long immunity will last from manmade vaccinations. However, patients who have recovered from the coronavirus who had their blood analyzed showed signs of antibodies as a result of their infections. In many cases, these levels of antibodies didn’t decline noticeably after four months. Healthline reports that this natural immunity might last as long as seven months and perhaps even longer.

What’s not known yet is whether or not infected patients are immune to reinfection later. There is a claim of at least one case where a person caught COVID-19 a second time, but this has yet to be independently verified.

Is Herd Immunity Real?

The concept of ‘herd immunity’ is the idea that when enough individuals within a population get immunity from a specific disease, then that community itself has protection from future outbreaks.

A number of experts on infectious diseases who work at The Johns Hopkins University state that at least two-thirds of the overall population has to be immune for this to be feasible, if not more. Several vaccinations are in development but are months away from mass deployment. Further complicating matters is that it’s not yet known if coronavirus victims have natural immunity. Also, even if they do, how long does it last?

While some government leaders state that everyone should just let the coronavirus run its course, leading to herd immunity, the overwhelming majority of experts agree that this is very dangerous. Doing so would mean deaths in the hundreds of thousands, if not more. Even among survivors, there would be millions of cases with long-term or even permanent damage to their kidneys, brains, hearts and lungs.

Getting Ready for a Second Coronavirus Wave Where You Live

The early spread of COVID-19 caught much of the world off-guard. However, the medical community is more prepared this time. They’re even bracing for spikes in cases, as they work to protect health care practitioners and patients alike while stocking up on supplies and equipment.

What Can You Do During a Second Spike?

Keep practicing the same precautions as always, no matter how old and tiresome they may be at this point. Distance yourself physically from others, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask.

Be sure to pay attention to any health authorities in your community. Their information about coronavirus cases will let you know if the second wave is impacting your area or at least how much.

List your household needs in terms of supplies, medications and food. Have a minimum of two weeks on hand in case your family needs to self-quarantine.

Contact your doctor to be sure everyone you live with, particularly kids, are current on vaccines. This includes the annual flu shot.

We’ve covered COVID-19 precautions on our site, since the beginning of all this. Many of the original guidelines still stand, including disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, both in public and in your home.

My Kid Asked Me if Santa Is Safe. What Should I Say?

Coronavirus has hit everyone hard, but children especially more so than usual. While adults are used to a ‘normal world’ and patiently or eagerly await its return, for young children, the world of a pandemic is all they really know. What impact that has on them, in the long run, is genuinely unknown.

Some children are old enough to know that COVID-19 has certain risk factors, including obesity and old age. In the holiday traditions where the character of Santa Claus exists, he is generally portrayed as a hefty fellow and one of advanced years. So, kids are looking out for Saint Nick, especially considering how he’s supposed to visit so many homes. Children are actually asking questions about Santa being a superspreader.

Fortunately, Santa Claus has ‘innate immunity’, according to USA Today. They quoted Dr. Anthony Fauci on this, widely regarded as the nation’s foremost public expert on this pandemic. He assures believers of Santa Claus that he won’t be catching or spreading the coronavirus.

Will There Be a Third Wave?

The World Health Organization, or WHO, is already warning many countries in Europe that a third coronavirus wave sometime in 2021 may be inevitable. Politico.EU reported that a WHO envoy has been warning national governments across the continent that relaxing restrictions after the first wave paved the way for the second. There is broad concern that similar loosenings of restrictions and preventative policies after the current wave will result in a third wave.

The WHO has been praising Asian countries for maintaining pandemic-suppressing policies and actions even after initial waves of the coronavirus, as these have been successful in keeping infections and deaths far lower than other nations. South Korea is one of the most urbanized places in the world, with a high population density in Seoul, with tens of millions of people. Yet, it has kept COVID-19 fatalities often in the dozens to hundreds, numbers that would be unthinkably low in most states in America or regions of Europe.

Whether or not there will be a distinct third wave in the United States is anyone’s guess. Some actually claim that the summer spike was the second wave when initial reopenings happened, and they argue that the current wave is actually the third one. However they are numbered, another wave is a distinct possibility, but only if the current one ends with a dip in death and infection rates.

In the absence of coherent and consistent national policy from the federal government, the pandemic response is a matter handled on a state-by-state basis. This patchwork system has resulted in a wide variety of different situations, where masks are mandatory for everyone and bars are closed inside one state line, but where people are crowding together without concern in restaurants and stores just across the border in another state.

Will Vaccinations End All of This?

At least two vaccines look to be highly effective in the United States so far, with several more still in development. However, manufacturing, storing, delivering and distributing them is going to be a logistical feat of epic proportions. Even when millions of doses start getting sent out, it could take several months to treat healthcare workers first, followed by seniors and high-risk patients. The general population may not get access to them until the spring of 2021.

Getting enough of the population vaccinated to starve the disease of potential hosts will take months, assuming enough people are willing to get vaccinated. Some are already doubtful of a vaccine being necessary or will refuse to get it on personal grounds.

Another issue may be how long the vaccinations last, which isn’t yet known. Repeat vaccinations may be necessary at regular intervals. Dr. Fauci has publically speculated that life may not get to a pre-pandemic normal until the middle of 2022.

The World Needs You

The coronavirus doesn’t understand national boundaries, as it’s everywhere. Even remote Arctic and Amazon tribes of native populations are impacted, no matter how much they try and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. Whether you’re considering becoming a physician assistant or a doctor, there are patients and people out there that can use your help.

Doctors do generally make more money, but the cost and length of their education are also higher than PAs face. Both jobs are only available to those who are serious about their commitment, and both carry steep price tags.

Choosing which route is for you requires consideration of your eligibility to practice, your expectations of lifetime earnings, and how much it all costs to get there. If you want to get experience in the broader medical field that might help you make this decision, then think about doing an internship through an International Medical Aid pre-med internship in any number of different disciplines.

As a not-for-profit and study-abroad program, IMA offers healthcare internships for both pre-med and medical students, as well as medical residents and practitioners, in international locations. These include underserved communities across the Caribbean, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. While delivering badly need medical assistance to communities in those regions, participants get to enjoy immersing themselves in local cultures, while also learning disciplines in the fields of medicine, public health, physical therapy, mental health, nursing and dentistry.