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A&M pandemic expert: It’s ‘likely’ the U.S. will see an autumn COVID-19 resurgence

(KBTX)
Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 5:31 PM CDT
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Federal health officials have warned that this week could be the deadliest so far for the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what happens after this week passes? After this month passes? After this season passes?

Christine Blackburn is the deputy director of the Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Program at the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service. For those hoping the novel coronavirus will wane as the weather warms up, Blackburn is hesitant to say one way or the other.

“I don’t know if there’s enough data to say that yet,” said Blackburn. “We’re still learning how humidity and temperatures impact the virus and its ability to survive.”

What Blackburn does say is “likely,” however, is an autumnal resurgence of COVID-19.

“I wouldn’t say 100%, and I really hope that there’s not a second wave, but I would say it’s likely, and that’s because there’s a lot of asymptomatic carriers and there’s a lot that we still don’t understand about the virus,” Blackburn said. “There will remain a lot of people who are susceptible after social distancing is lifted. And there is some emerging evidence—though I want to emphasize that we don’t know for sure—that people may test positive again after testing negative. There’s a lot of things to consider, and I think it does make a second wave likely [in the fall].”

Bad news, considering Blackburn says the U.S. “was not prepared” for the first round of the pandemic. She calls some local and state governmental responses good, but as for the federal response? “Poor,” she said.

“Overall federal responses have been poor in previous pandemics as well, but I think that it would be false to say that the federal response has been great,” said Blackburn. “One of the things that we’ve advocated for in the Scowcroft Institute [of International Affairs at the Texas A&M Bush School] for a long time is strong centralized leadership, and in this particular response, it’s been much more decentralized leadership with the states having more responsibility for responding than a coordinated federal response. So I think that’s one of the big things that has hampered the response at that level.”

As the U.S.’s COVID-19 curve lags behind other countries, Blackburn says we should keep their respective state responses in context.

“I think there are things we can learn from China, but we need to be cautiously aware that there are also a lot of differences,” said Blackburn. “They are ahead of us in the outbreak, which means that they’re lifting their restrictions right now. People are starting to move around. We can learn based on what happens when people start to move around, but again, there are differences. The U.S. population is different. The measures that we took were different. China had a much stricter lockdown than we have had here. So I think there are things that can learn, but we have to be cautious in taking those as absolutely things that can be applied to our situation.”

For the full conversation with Blackburn, see the video player above.

You can also catch Blackburn every Monday at 12:30 p.m. answering questions on Facebook Live at the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service page.