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“If This Thing Boomerangs”: Second Wave of Infections Feared

Temor a “2da ola” se cierne sobre avances contra el coronavirus


WASHINGTON (AP) — As Europe and the U.S. loosen their lockdowns against the coronavirus, health experts are expressing growing dread over what they say is an all-but-certain second wave of deaths and infections that could force governments to clamp back down.

“We’re risking a backslide that will be intolerable,” said Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity.

Around the world, German authorities began drawing up plans in case of a resurgence of the virus. Experts in Italy urged intensified efforts to identify new victims and trace their contacts. And France, which hasn’t yet eased its lockdown, has already worked up a “reconfinement plan” in the event of a new wave.

“There will be a second wave, but the problem is to which extent. Is it a small wave or a big wave? It’s too early to say,” said Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus unit at France’s Pasteur Institute.

In the U.S., with about half of the states easing their shutdowns to get their economies restarted and cellphone data showing that people are becoming restless and increasingly leaving home, public health authorities are worried.

Many states have not put in place the robust testing that experts believe is necessary to detect and contain new outbreaks. And many governors have pressed ahead before their states met one of the key benchmarks in the Trump administration’s guidelines for reopening — a 14-day downward trajectory in new illnesses and infections.

“If we relax these measures without having the proper public health safeguards in place, we can expect many more cases and, unfortunately, more deaths,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

Cases have continued to rise steadily in places such as Iowa and Missouri since the governors began reopening, while new infections have yo-yoed in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.

Lipkin said he is most worried about two things: the reopening of bars, where people crowd together and lose their inhibitions, and large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts and plays. Preventing outbreaks will require aggressive contact tracing powered by armies of public health workers hundreds of thousands of people strong, which the U.S. doesn’t yet have, Lipkin said.

Worldwide the virus has infected more than 3.6 million people and killed over a quarter-million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts agree understates the dimensions of the disaster because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments.

The U.S. has recorded over 70,000 deaths and 1.2 million confirmed infections, while Europe has reported over 140,000 dead.

This week, the researchers behind a widely cited model from the University of Washington nearly doubled their projection of deaths in the U.S. to around 134,000 through early August, in large part because of the easing of state stay-at-home restrictions. Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are running well over 1,000.

In hard-hit New York City, which has managed to bring down deaths dramatically even as confirmed infections continue to rise around the rest of the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that some states may be reopening too quickly.

“My message to the rest of the country is learn from how much effort, how much discipline it took to finally bring these numbers down and follow the same path until you’re sure that it’s being beaten back,” he said on CNN, “or else if this thing boomerangs, you’re putting off any kind of restart or recovery a hell of a lot longer.”

A century ago, the Spanish flu epidemic’s second wave was far deadlier than its first, in part because authorities allowed mass gatherings from Philadelphia to San Francisco.

“It’s clear to me that we are in a critical moment of this fight. We risk complacency and accepting the preventable deaths of 2,000 Americans each day,” epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers, a professor at Johns Hopkins, told a House subcommittee in Washington.

President Donald Trump, who has pressed hard to ease the restrictions that have throttled the economy and thrown more than 30 million Americans out of work, pulled back Wednesday on White House plans revealed a day earlier to wind down the coronavirus task force.

He tweeted that the task force will continue meeting indefinitely with a “focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”

Underscoring those economic concerns, the European Union predicted the worst recession in its quarter-century history. And the U.S. unemployment rate for April, which comes out this Friday, is expected to hit a staggering 16 percent, a level last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Governors continue to face demands, even lawsuits, to reopen. In Michigan, where armed demonstrators entered the Capitol last week, the Republican-led Legislature sued Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, asking a judge to declare invalid her stay-at-home order, which runs at least through May 15.

In hard-hit Italy, which has begun easing restrictions, Dr. Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Superior Institute of Health, urged “a huge investment” of resources to train medical personnel to monitor possible new cases of the virus, which has killed about 30,000 people nationwide.

He said that contact-tracing apps — which are being built by dozens of countries and companies — aren’t enough to manage future waves of infection.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting with the country’s 16 governors that restaurants and other businesses will be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks but that regional authorities will have to draw up a “restriction concept” for any county that reports 50 new cases for every 100,000 inhabitants within a week.

Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s national disease control center, said scientists “know with great certainty that there will be a second wave” of infections.

Britain, with over 30,000 dead, the second-highest death toll in the world behind the U.S., plans to extend its lockdown but has begun recruiting 18,000 people to trace contacts of those infected.

In other developments, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 5,000 coronavirus illnesses and at least 88 deaths have been reported among inmates in American jails and prisons. An additional 2,800 cases and 15 deaths were reported among guards and other staffer members.




WASHINGTON (AP) — China declaró que el riesgo por coronavirus en el país es ahora bajo y Nueva Zelanda avanzó el jueves, 7 de mayo, en la suavización de su confinamiento por la pandemia, aunque expertos en salud expresaron su creciente temor a que una segunda oleada de decesos y contagios pueda obligar a los gobiernos a volver a decretar cuarentenas.

En muchos países, las autoridades están elaborando planes para abordar la reaparición de brotes mientras trabajan para reabrir negocios y retomar otras actividades suspendidas para combatir la pandemia.

Las autoridades de salud pública de Estados Unidos se mostraron preocupadas porque casi la mitad de los estados están relajando las medidas, mientras datos de celulares muestran que la gente está cada vez más impaciente y sale de casa.

Muchos estados no han realizado las pruebas masivas que, según los expertos, son necesarias para detectar y contener nuevos brotes. Y muchos gobernadores han seguido adelante con la reactivación económica antes de que sus regiones cumplan uno de los puntos clave en los lineamientos del gobierno de Donald Trump para la reapertura: una tendencia a la baja en el número de contagios confirmados durante 14 días.

“Si relajamos estas medidas sin tener las garantías de salud pública adecuadas en marcha, podemos esperar muchos más casos y, desafortunadamente, más muertos”, apuntó Josh Michaud, director asociado de política sanitaria global en la Kaiser Family Foundation en Washington.

Los contagios diarios en Estados Unidos superan los 20.000, con más de 1.000 decesos por día. El número de infectados sigue aumentando de forma constante en lugares como Iowa y Missouri, y ha fluctuado en Georgia, Tennessee y Texas.

Los investigadores doblaron recientemente su proyección de muertes en el país a alrededor de 134.000 hasta principios de agosto. Hasta el momento, el país registró 70.000 fallecimientos con 1,2 millones de casos confirmados de coronavirus, mientras que Europa reportó en conjunto 140.000 decesos, según un conteo de la Universidad Johns Hopkins.

La Administración Nacional de Salud de China confirmó el jueves dos nuevos casos de COVID-19, la enfermedad causada por el virus, ambos procedentes del extranjero, y afirmó que la nación está en bajo riesgo de nuevas infecciones tras no haber registrado muertes ligadas al virus en más de tres semanas.

El último lugar de China, el país en el que se detectó por primera vez el virus a finales del año pasado, donde el nivel de riesgo se rebajó de alto a bajo fue un condado adyacente a la frontera con Rusia que registró el repunte más reciente de casos.

El estricto distanciamiento social también parece haber vencido al brote en la remota Nueva Zelanda, donde la primera ministra, Jacinda Ardern, esbozó planes para relajar más aún la cuarentena, una decisión que podría producirse la próxima semana.

Nueva Zelanda mantendrá las fronteras cerradas, restringirá las reuniones a un máximo de 100 personas y celebrará las competiciones deportivas profesionales a puerta cerrada. Se exigirán mascarillas y otras medidas de precaución en restaurantes y escuelas tras su reapertura, dijo.

Por otra parte, Alemania empezó a elaborar sus planes para afrontar una posible reaparición del virus y expertos en Italia se afanaron en hallar nuevas víctimas y rastrear sus contactos. Francia, que todavía no ha aliviado las restricciones, ya tiene un “plan de reconfinamiento” en el caso de una segunda oleada.

En todo el mundo, el virus ha infectado a más de 3,6 millones de personas y ha matado a más de 250.000, según la Universidad Johns Hopkins. Pero los expertos están de acuerdo en que el conteo subestima las dimensiones de la pandemia por el limitado acceso a las pruebas, la diferencia en el recuento de los fallecidos y la falta de transparencia de algunos gobiernos.



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