A second wave of Covid-19 is likely, says former Assistant Surgeon General


The lack of massive testing and contact tracing, and some states’ unwillingness to follow recommended prevention practices could lead to a new spike in cases in not so distant future, according to Dr. Susan Blumenthal, a former assistant U.S. surgeon general.

Blumenthal, speaking in a video conference on May 5 with the New America Foundation, warned that the late response to Covid-19 by the Trump administration might lead to serious restructuring of the U.S. health institutions. She called for a commission modeled after the 9/11 one, which would look into what mistakes were made by the government in their attempt to prevent the spread of the disease. 

“Throughout history infectious diseases have killed more people than the war,” said Blumenthal. “We must fight this war together so that one day the only place we can find Covid-19 are the history books.”

Blumenthal, who worked on the front-lines of the AIDS epidemic, said that misconceptions then are similar to misconceptions often shared amid the current pandemic. During the AIDS epidemic, some unfounded reports gave misleading information about who couldn’t contract AIDS. For example, it was reported early on that women were unlikely to contract AIDS, although now women account for 52% of AIDS cases.   

Death rate of Covid-19 in the U.S. is currently at 6% and while women and men are equally likely to contract the virus, men die at twice the rate due to still unknown predispositions. Communities of color are disproportionately susceptible to dying from the virus, mostly due to lack of supplies in community hospitals and the necessity to work during the pandemic. Lack of medical equipment across the state is a major concern for Blumenthal and requires more governmental attention.

“Not providing our healthcare workers with the necessary medical equipment would be like sending soldiers to war without helmets and armor,” said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal said the U.S. should continue its support to WHO which serves an important international role in combating the epidemic. She added that it’s difficult to predict when a vaccine for Covid-19 might be available. Vaccines typically take years before approval but  technological advancements in the field of medicine have been extraordinary and could lead to early breakthroughs.

“We must be hopeful,” she said. “What is the alternative?”

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