Many US residents are anxious to know when the quarantine and stay-at-home orders will come to an end. Right now, the answers appear vague, at best. The timeframe will depend on how fast we can stop the coronavirus from spreading, and whether we can avoid a resurgence after the first wave ends. So we wondered, how likely is a resurgence? The virus’s pattern in China may offer some clues.
China’s numbers dropped significantly after just 2 months of quarantines, and those numbers seem to be holding even now after businesses have begun to start back up. It’s hard to say whether China has beat COVID-19 or merely hit the eye of the storm, but either way, most of the rest of the world is taking notes. Meanwhile, the US is seeing skyrocketing numbers, possibly because not enough people have taken social distancing seriously enough, and with the possibility of reinfection making recent headlines, we could be in for a long ride.
In uncertain times, it can be difficult to hold on to hope when you can’t even tell if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As the number of reported cases continues to rise, it may feel like there’s no end in sight, but a look at China’s numbers tells us that social distancing does work. As of this report, China has reduced its death rate to only a few people per day.
Since the initial WHO reporting of COVID-19 on December 31, 2019, China has seen over 82,900 cases and at least 3,338 deaths. At its peak, on February 13, the country lost 254 lives in one day. Just 2 weeks later, thanks largely to strict social restrictions, residents started seeing the death toll drop below the triple digits. On March 20, China saw only 8 deaths related to the coronavirus, and that number has remained in the single-digit range.
After a solid 2 months of lockdowns, China slowly started reopening businesses in early March. According to an NPR report, economic activity had recovered to about 80% by March 19. So far, so good, but China — and the world — may need to hold its breath until after Wuhan’s quarantine lifts.
It’s too early to tell whether China will experience a resurgence once it attempts to return to business as usual. There’s always a chance a new spark could set off a whole new wildfire. Only time will tell. As China pushes to begin repairing its economy, the rest of the world will watch for direction. No matter what happens in China, every other country currently dealing with this pandemic will be taking notes.
A resurgence may not be all we have to worry about. According to Taiwan News, people can become reinfected. That seems to indicate that developing an immunity to the coronavirus might be problematic. Even worse, a second bout of COVID-19 could be more fatal than the first. Medications used to treat the infection may play a role, weakening the heart and raising the risks of a cardiac event.
According to Snopes, the risk of reinfection is unproven. But if it does happen to be just a rumor, it’s been spreading like wildfire. The New York Post, New York Times, Vox, Forbes and MSN all have published stories that discussed the very real possibility of reinfection. Many question, however, whether the patients ever really recovered from the initial infection. But if people really are getting sick for a second time, we all may need to double down on our efforts.
We were slower to take serious measures to respond to the pandemic, and some Americans have been downright defiant about the stay-at-home orders, says The Atlantic. That may be part of the reason why we’ve already seen over four times as many reported infections as China. Before we can worry about a resurgence, we need to worry about stopping the first wave, and that’s not going to happen if we're not all doing our part.
It’s still too early to know anything for sure, but China’s COVID-19 numbers could finally be tapering for good. A resurgence is always possible; if it does occur, it could mean we all need to stay isolated a little longer than a month or two to beat this thing. The next couple of weeks should be telling.