What a coronavirus 'second peak' could look like

A possible "second peak" of coronavirus infections could be worse than the first, resulting in a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases and reaching a new high of cases and preventable deaths, according to CNN.

At a May 25 media briefing, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's emergencies program, warned of the possibility of a second peak of COVID-19 cases before the anticipated second wave of the pandemic.

A second peak could be devastating for many reasons, including that a sudden sharp spike in cases could once again put the U.S. healthcare system in danger of being overwhelmed, especially if the second peak coincides with this year's flu season, CNN reports.

"From a healthcare point of view, flu season is usually a very difficult time because there are so many sick people," Gabe Kelen, MD, director of the department of emergency medicine at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, told CNN. "Flu season in the face of COVID-19 — that's going to be a real challenge."

A second peak could also result in a wave of preventable deaths, and not just in deaths related to COVID-19, Dr. Kelen said. Hospitals once again overwhelmed with coronavirus patients may not be able to care for emergency patients or patients with chronic conditions, such as cancer, resulting in more potential deaths.

If a second peak occurs, it will likely occur in the fall, but reopening public areas too quickly and lifting restrictions without placing appropriate safeguards against infection spread could result in the peak occurring as early as late June, Dr. Kelen told CNN.

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