Americans need to prepare for a second cycle of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, a White House health advisor said Wednesday.
"Would this possibly become a seasonal cyclic thing? I've always indicated to you that I think it very well might," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a White House press briefing.
U.S. health officials and infectious disease experts are learning about how the new coronavirus behaves by watching outbreaks in other countries such as Southern Africa that are starting to enter their colder seasons, Fauci told reporters.
"What we're starting to see in the Southern Hemisphere of Southern Africa and the Southern Hemisphere countries, is that we're having cases that are appearing as they go into their winter season," he said. "If they have a substantial outbreak, it will be inevitable that we need to be prepared that we'll get a cycle a second time."
Earlier in the outbreak, U.S. health officials said there was a hypothesis among mathematical modelers that the outbreak "could potentially be seasonal" and relent in warmer conditions.
"Other viral respiratory diseases are seasonal, including influenza and therefore in many viral respiratory diseases we do see a decrease in disease in spring and summer," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a Feb. 25 conference call. "And so we can certainly be optimistic that this disease will follow suit."
While that gives hope the disease will subside in the summer, that also suggests that it could thrive year round by passing from country to country.
Fauci said Wednesday that the virus potentially being seasonal emphasizes the importance of producing a vaccine, "so we can have it ready for the next cycle."
The United States has the third-highest number of confirmed cases in the world, behind Italy and China, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than half of the U.S. cases are in New York state, where local officials have tested more than 103,000 people and spent $1 billion fighting the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the White House advised anyone who travels through New York to self-isolate for two weeks and monitor their symptoms if they leave the area.