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Health experts weigh in on potential wave of COVID-19 during winter flu season

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Posted at 4:21 PM, Apr 22, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — Top health officials have suggested the country could face another rough road ahead concerning coronavirus, and worse.

CDC Director Robert Redfield told the Washington Post a possible wave of COVID-19 coinciding with flu season could result in a worse peak in the winter.

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“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Dr. Redfield told the Washington Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”

Before that resurgence comes, Dr. Charles Lockwood, the dean of USF Health's Morsani College of Medicine, believes there will be second wave of COVID-19 as social distancing policies are relaxed. However, he does agree it is likely to have COVID-19 cases and flu season hit at the same time.

“Hopefully by then, we’ll have a fair number of people who are immune because unfortunately, they were infected,” said Dr. Lockwood. “I think we’re going to have four or five different drugs that are going to be much more effective than the ones we’re currently using to treat sick folks.”

Dr. Lockwood thinks we'll be in better shape by winter flu season. Lockwood explained overwhelming hospitals with flu and COVID-19 cases is a concern, but he still thinks people will be better prepared.

Tampa General’s Dr. Seetha Lakshmi is cautiously optimistic.

“How bad it’s going to get, we’re not going to know, but at least we’ve had the time to prepare for it,” said Lakshmi.

Dr. Lakshmi says there are measures people can take to be ready for a flu season and COVID-19 resurgence.

“We’ve established that hand washing, staying home when you’re sick, not touching your face without washing your hands has really been an integral part and that continues to be the case,” said Dr. Lakshmi. “As soon as the flu vaccine is available, I urge, urge, urge people to get the flu vaccine. Because it would be catastrophic to have a large population with influenza and then getting COVID19.”

Dr. Lockwood also touched on Hillsborough County’s peak in cases, which he said happened around April 4.

“Hospitalizations seem to have already peaked, probably somewhere between a week and four days ago. ICU admissions are dropping at most of the hospitals,” said Lockwood. “Deaths seem to have also finally plateaued. We’ve only had one death in the last two days and I think only three deaths in probably the last 10 days. So we actually have one of the lowest case fatality rates in the state, in Hillsborough County. ”

Lockwood says the state of Florida has peaked in cases and is just about at the peak of hospitalizations. He says within the next seven days, the state should be at the peak of fatalities.

“You have to understand that that’s occurring despite a dramatic increases in testing, so that’s a really good sign,” said Lockwood. “If we’re dropping and we’re doing a lot more testing, that’s a really, really good sign.”

Dr. Lockwood shared Dr. Lakshmi’s suggestions to prepare for flu season, adding the social distancing measures in place are working.

“Theoretically, if everyone stayed home for two weeks, everyone in the United States, that would be the end of the virus,” said Lockwood. “The virus can’t spread without a human host. So we really have the power to suppress this.”