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Is There a Second Wave of COVID-19 Coming and What Can Hospitals do to Prepare?

As the summer months warm up and states relax some of the strict social distancing and stay-at-home protocols first put in place back in March, many are forgetting that we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Some states have been seeing a drop in cases and deaths leading them through several phases of reopening, whereas others have seen an increase in coronavirus cases, leading healthcare and hospital facilities to prepare for what is being called the ‘second wave’ of the virus.

Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, discussed the prospects for mitigating a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic with JAMA Editor-in-Chief Howard Bauchner, MD, on Dr. Bauchner’s podcast, “Conversations with Dr. Bauchner.

“Almost every government is talking about lifting control measures. Not every government, but many, because of the economic burdens. Given the fairly high caseloads that we have in the United States, that's a really risky thing to do right now,” Lipsitch said on the podcast. “I hope that the summer weather will help,” he added, but his research indicates that the warmer weather will only reduce transmission rates by about 20%. “That's only enough to slow it down, but not enough to stop it.”

Related Blog: How Hospitals Adopted Innovative Response Strategies to Combat  the COVID-19 Pandemic

Comparing the 1918 Pandemic with COVID-19 

Back in 1918 there was an Influenza Pandemic, which killed about 50 million people worldwide, according to KHN. There was a first wave that began in March 1918 and eased by the summertime. The second wave began in the fall and was followed by the third wave during the winter of 1919. Below find a rough graph showing the waves in deaths:

1918 influenza pandemic

This history shows that second and even third waves are possible for pandemics, but there are some stark differences between the influenza pandemic and today's current coronavirus pandemic.. The second wave of the influenza pandemic was extremely deadly due to mutation that increased the virus’s lethality. In comparison, the coronavirus seems to be a lot more stable than the influenza outbreak, making it less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant, according to Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease expert.

The second and third waves of the 1918 pandemic were also impacted by the weather. Each wave seemed to begin during the classic flu season in the colder winter months. Unfortunately, COVID-19 does not seem to have a significant seasonal aspect. Scientists have claimed that there is not an expected seasonal drop-off for the coronavirus, as per KHN.

Although there are differences between the 1918 Influenza pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has predicted that the world will see a second wave of the virus around the same time as our yearly seasonal flu season.

How Can Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Prepare

Even with relaxed social distancing practices, national and local healthcare experts are still predicting and preparing for a second wave of COVID-19 this fall, according to Health News Hub. Dr. Ajay Kumar, Chief Clinical Officer for Hartford Healthcare said during a media briefing, “Social distancing is the only thing we have to decrease the spread of this disease… (The disease) is still as lethal as it was in February, March and April.”


During the current lull in coronavirus cases in several states across the U.S., healthcare facilities are doing what they can to best prepare themselves for the looming second wave. Below are some tools and preparedness strategies hospitals are doing to best fight the spread of COVID-19, as per Health News Hub:

  • Stocking up on personal protective equipment (PPE) and making sure there is enough on hand to protect staff and patients.
  • Optimizing contact tracing efforts to identify those who have has contact with somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Maintaining hospital and healthcare facilities so that they are safe for patients who need treatment for the coronavirus, or for patients who need help for other healthcare concerns.
  • Streamlining communication plans to make sure staff and patients are kept updated on hospital COVID-19 protocols through a mass notification solution.
  • Maintaining capacity so that teams can easily scale operations up or down to meet the demand for care anticipated in a second wave.

Healthcare facilities are also leveraging the technology tools they have in place to help with hospital operations throughout the pandemic. SMS opt-in has been extremely helpful for patients and visitors entering a healthcare facility. Those who opt-in will receive targeted notifications on a specific topic, COVID-19 for example, and they can easily opt-out of these notifications after leaving the hospital.

Related Blog: Filling Healthcare Shifts Amidst a Global Pandemic

Mass notification solutions with polling capabilities have also been extremely useful for sending wellness checks out to internal staff to ensure they are feeling safe and well. Polling has also been used to fill vacant shifts to make sure hospitals and healthcare facilities are not understaffed. This will be crucial in the case of the second wave.

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Tara Gibson
Tara Gibson

Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!

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