04:57 GMT05 July 2020
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    The resurgence of new COVID-19 cases in states in the US Deep South and Midwest isn’t part of a second wave. Rather, it is just the comeback of the first wave, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician and vice chair of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Global Health Committee, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Friday.

    Several states, including Texas, North and South Carolina, California, Oregon, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Arizona, have seen surges in COVID-19 cases following Memorial Day weekend. Texas, for instance, has seen a 36% increase in new cases since May 25, while Arizona has experienced a record number of hospitalizations over the last few days. In fact, Arizona has experienced almost a 50% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since Memorial Day.

    “This is a resurgence of the first wave. This is not the second wave that people have been talking about. To see a second wave, we would have really had to see the cases go down” following the lifting of lockdown measures, Kuppalli told host John Kiriakou. A second wave would be characterized by few or no new cases after relaxing lockdown measures for a considerable period of time, followed by an increase in cases later.

    “This really is evidence of resurgence from the initial outbreak that we were worried might happen if we reopen businesses or reopen society a little too quickly,” Kuppalli stated.

    “I think all states need to be worried about that as they reopen society. Ideally, you would be lifting public health measures in a stepwise manner and giving some time to see, as you lift those public health measures, if your case counts are going up,” Kuppalli explained.

    Despite the risk of more infections, US President Donald Trump has encouraged the reopening of states while also dismissing models that predicted a steep resurgence in cases if the country lifted lockdown measures too quickly.

    “These models have been so wrong from day one. Both on the low side and the upside. They’ve been so wrong, they’ve been so out of whack. And they keep making new models, new models, and they’re wrong,” the president said last month, Bloomberg reported. 

    However, just as many of those models predicted, the states that relaxed lockdown measures earlier are the ones now experiencing record numbers of new infections. 

    “I think what we’re seeing in the states that have already had numbers go up, we’re seeing a reflection of what happened a couple of weeks ago, so, really, around Memorial Day weekend. We know that with the large number of protests that have been happening over the last few weeks, we more than likely will see case numbers go up, and then with the opening of society, that will only add to that,” Kuppalli explained.

    When asked whether the US health care system could manage a second wave, Kuppalli seemed hopeful but also noted that there would likely be a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) once again.

    “Hopefully, with the time that we’ve had, every state and health care system has worked on developing contingency plans for surge … That being said, we still have a limited number of health care providers that can provide that medical care,” Kuppalli noted.

    “I think that’s still something that’s still very much a concern,” she said of the question of whether there would be enough PPE in the event of a second wave. “We are still looking at places that are developing contingency plans for reusing PPE, which is not something we’ve ever had to do before this outbreak.”

    According to the World Health Organization, there are currently at least 136 COVID-19 vaccines that are being researched and developed around the world. At least 10 of those drugs are undergoing clinical trials.

    US biotechnology company Moderna is at the forefront of developing a COVID-19 vaccine. The company was the first to begin human trials of a vaccine in the US, and it confirmed Monday that it is on schedule to begin the final-stage clinical trials of its vaccine by July. American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson also revealed Wednesday that it would expedite the development of its COVID-19 vaccine by initiating human trials in late July instead of September, as it had initially planned.

    “I think that while everybody is hopeful, we are guarded in being hopeful about when we might have a vaccine. And even if we get a vaccine later this year or next year, that will be one of the fastest paths to getting a vaccine that we’ve ever seen,” Kuppalli noted.

    However, despite the fast-tracking of vaccine candidates, Kuppalli explained that a drug approved for public use would not be an untested or experimental treatment.

    “It would have still gone through the scientific rigor that any other vaccine will have gone through that’s been FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approved … We hear a lot about vaccines being fast-tracked. What that means is rather than going through phase one, phase two, phase three in those steps, what they’ve decided to do is after the phase one data was available - rather than waiting for phase two and phase three data - they started ramping up production of the vaccine while going through phase two and phase three, so they don’t have to wait for the phase three data to be available,” Kuppalli explained.

    She also highlighted the significance of educating the public about the vaccine and ensuring that it is accessible to everyone.

    “I think all of us in the scientific community are advocating that everyone would be able to get it. We want it to be available to everybody. We need to do a lot of education around the vaccine,” Kuppalli noted.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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