Many people in the US are now bracing for what is being called a second wave of COVID-19 cases. However, the first “wave” of the virus hasn’t actually crested or fallen yet.
As cases in Texas, Florida and other states across the country spike, the national average hasn’t moved much since March. Looking at the graph of the disease’s spread in the US, one would be forgiven for not seeing a series of waves in the US.
Instead, what we are seeing here is more akin to an endemic. Pandemics are rapid outbreaks of disease that spread across a large region in a short period of time. Endemics are similar, but are specifically diseases that are present in a region for long stretches of time. The common cold and seasonal influenza, for example, are endemic in the US. They spike in some seasons, but they’re always present in the country somewhere.
COVID-19 Shows No Signs of Slowing
Early in the pandemic, epidemiologists talked about flattening the curve. Social distancing, mask guidelines and widespread closures of businesses were enacted, albeit slowly. The US was well behind other industrialized nations in responding to the virus. By the time the country had begun really taking steps to slow the virus, it was already present in large numbers in all 50 states.
While May and June have seen many states relaxing their lockdown guidelines, cases have begun to surge again in some areas. The question, however, is why? Why has the virus stubbornly stuck around in the US despite gains in other industrialized nations? The answer likely lies with leadership and the national response to the virus.
The Trump Administration was very slow to respond to the crisis. There has never been a national standard for testing for COVID in the US. During a rally on June 20 in Tulsa, President Trump stated that testing is a “double-edged sword.” He suggested that the reason for the rising case numbers was just a higher amount of testing in the US. Trump went on to say that this is why he’s urged his administration to “slow down” on nation testing.
This downplaying of the virus has done the nation a disservice. We are now in a similar boat to Brazil, Russia and the UK–industrialized nations with strongman leaders who have been slow to address the virus’s spread. All of these nations are facing similarly high numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Now, epidemiologists fear that COVID-19 is on its way to becoming endemic in the US. While New Zealand has eradicated COVID altogether in their borders, the US could be facing the disease as a seasonal threat. For political reasons, we’ve chosen death and disease over a concerted national response.