Since the pandemic hit North America in mid-March, scientists have warned that even if physical distancing and other slow-down measures succeeded in curbing the virus’s first wave, as summer drew to a close and colder temperatures started to force people back indoors again, we would likely face a second wave.
Many countries around the world, including Canada, have weathered the first wave reasonably well, and are now taking steps to loosen restrictions on large gatherings and “re-open” their economies.
The United States is on that path too. The big difference there is that the first wave of the pandemic has never really been contained. Sure, some of the initial hotspots such as Seattle and New York have managed after a months-long struggle to rein in the virus. But as had been forecast, the virus is now beginning to spread to other areas of the country — many of which lack the capacity (and often the political will) to protect public health.
As of today at noon, the U.S. infection and death tolls stood at 2,151,730 and 117,649. Of particular concern are the spiking case loads in states such as California (3,125 on Saturday), Texas (2,262), Florida (2,625), Georgia (1,018), Louisiana (1,288), North Carolina (1,428), Arizona (1,540) and Alabama (1,014).
As I noted in an April 7 blog post, for a host of reasons tied to political, economic and socio-cultural factors, the U.S. is the perfect breeding ground for a virus like COVID-19 to spread. With protests now wracking the country, many states pushing aggressive re-opening strategies, and U.S. president Donald Trump set to kick off a series of large rallies in Tulsa, Okla on June 20 in the run-up to the Republican national convention in Jacksonville, Fla. in late August the first wave risks becoming a tidal wave.
That spells bad news for those Americans who have been supportive of public health measures to restrict the spread of the virus. It also puts Canada in a difficult spot, as the high degree of economic integration we have with the U.S. means our well-being is inextricably tied to our southern neighbours. And right now, it doesn’t look very good.