Should we worry about the second wave, even though there aren't that many deaths?
Today, most European countries face a sharp increase in COVID case, but with far fewer deaths than in the first wave. Should we worry?
I do, a bit. Not as much as I did during the first wave. However, there are three reasons for concern – both for our economies and for our people.
The first one is that it is not (only) lockdowns that kill the economy, but also the virus spreading. For example, South Dakota 🇺🇸 did not impose any restrictions on restaurants and bars, and yet, its food & beverage establishments suffered more than in the average state (source). Even if our countries do not call for a second lockdown, businesses will suffer if cases rise.
The second reason I am worried is that mortality is a function of hospital access. If hospitals get overwhelmed with non-fatal COVID cases, sick people’s mortality will rise, regardless of whether they have COVID, cancer, or other diseases. The Netherlands already have some of their hospitals so overwhelmed that they began sending patients to Germany, for example.
(Also, a reminder that it is not just lockdowns that prevent cancer patients and others to get access to diagnostics and treatment, but the virus overwhelming the healthcare system too.)
The third reason I am worried is that mortality seems to be a function of viral load. The more people have COVID, the more virus you’re likely to inhale when you eat out, and thus the sicker you’re likely to get. If that is indeed the case, I expect mortality to rise again in the coming weeks.
It is true that the more cases, the more people are immune. But this only applies to the second part of the S-curve of virus diffusion across a population. In the first part, the mechanism I described above dominates. And I am afraid that many regions are still in the first part of the S-curve.
There are additional considerations that could make the second wave different from the first one.
We know better than before how to cure the sick (but this is contingent on hospital access).
We have more tests, faster ones.
We have more sick people, so a broader number of people within social distance from a sick person and thus at risk of contagion.
We are wearing face-masks.
There might be a vaccine soon (BUT whoever claims he knows when is lying, and there are huge doubts about when one can be deployed at scale).
The summer is over, and Vitamin D reserves are depleting.
Will the positive considerations outweigh the negative ones? I don’t know. With this article, I just wanted to inform you about a few non-obvious considerations. Keep safe, and keep wearing masks.