The alarming surge in coronavirus cases nationwide may surprise some, but for epidemiologists like Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, the uptick was expected.
Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, warned about the current spike back in early May, as states started to reopen without adequate testing in place.
Now, Nuzzo is warning that the one-two punch of rising coronavirus infections and the coming flu season could overwhelm hospitals this fall and result in more loss of life.
"That's really a troubling trend. COVID-19 cases are surging nationwide, erasing months of progress," she said.
"The case growth is bigger than what we saw in March before we shut down. So it's really, really disappointing that we are now possibly worse off than we were back before all of the shutdowns began," she said.
Without measures in place to stop the rise in cases, Nuzzo said she predicts that the U.S. could experience a second wave of outbreaks and infections.
With long lines for screening, a lack of testing for all but the sickest patients and weeks of waiting for results, many states are not getting a realistic snapshot of the pandemic, she warned.
Although the death rate has dropped, Nuzzo thinks that may soon change.
"Death tends to be less frequent in younger age groups. But these folks can certainly spread it to others ... the more cases there are in the community, the greater the chances that the virus will reach the people who will die," says Nuzzo.
One of the main concerns for the fall season is the impact of a second wave of coronavirus infections on top of the arrival of flu season.
"Trying to manage two very challenging infectious diseases in a clinical environment is going to be quite difficult," Nuzzo said.
"Any average flu season is a challenge for hospitals. It fills them up. It makes staff work overtime and sometimes they run out of supplies. And then you add to it the enormous challenges that we're seeing with COVID-19. I deeply worry about health systems and their abilities to manage this in the fall," she said.
Nuzzo said this year it’s more important than ever for everyone to get their flu shot to reduce the amount of illness and help hospitals as scientists work around the clock to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
The doctor advised everyone to continue protecting themselves and family members by wearing masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces.