What wave are we in?
Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted recently that during a discussion with nurses at Hartford Hospital, "We talked about why we all need to do our part to prevent a third wave of COVID in Connecticut."
Anthony Fauci, perhaps the best known infectious disease expert in the world, said during a summit earlier this week that, nationally, it's all been one wave so far: "I look at it more as an elongated, and an exacerbation of, the original first wave."
So, what wave is it?
"I think we may be starting a second wave,” said Pedro Mendes, director of UConn’s Richard D. Berlin Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling. “It is definitely not a third one. Some people argue that this may still be the continuation of the first. In my opinion it is the second.”
It depends on how wide you zoom out. What looks like three waves in the United States may consist of localized spikes that make up a single wave of disease, according to Ted Cohen, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Yale.
“When you examine aggregated numbers in the U.S., it looks as if there are three distinct rises in cases, but in my view, this represents only an artifact of aggregating a lot of local patterns happening at the state and county level,” he said.
There’s no “strict definition for an epidemic or pandemic wave,” said Scott Roberts, associate medical director of infection prevention at Yale Medical Center. “But rather this term applies to a natural pattern of ebbing and flowing when looking at an epidemic curve.”
In Connecticut, Roberts said, the curve was successfully flattened over the summer. But, as cases begin to rise again, a second wave may be here.
“Nationally, we are in the third wave or a ‘prolonged first wave’ since transmission never substantially decreased to the point of flattening the curve, although this varied substantially by region,” he said. “Here in Connecticut, we were successful in ‘flattening the curve’ for the summer months and with our current increase in cases, we appear to be entering the second wave from a state-specific perspective.”
Cohen agreed: “When you look at the counties in Connecticut, there is evidence of a clear first wave, followed by a lull, and now a second wave.”
What that second wave might look like is a question.
Mendes creates predictive models on behalf of Hartford’s John Dempsey Hospital, as said recently that the state’s worst case scenario looks similar to April, in terms of hospitalizations, though that is not very likely.
And though infections may rise precipitously in the coming months, the death rate is projected to stay well below April levels.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 100 people died from coronavirus-related causes at the height of the first wave. The IHME’s projections only go out as far as February, but current projections put the death rate at about 14 per day.