A second COVID-19 outbreak over the winter could be worse than what we’re facing now, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told The Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday. A new wave of coronavirus infections along with flu season could put a huge strain on hospitals and healthcare workers, CDC director Robert Redfield told The Post.

“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,” Redfield said in the story

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Health experts are concerned about the confluence of the flu and COVID-19 before a vaccine for the latter is developed and widely available. The US has seen more than 800,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest in the world. More than 45,000 people have so far died from coronavirus across the US, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University

To date in New Jersey, there have been 4,753 deaths, according to NJ’s COVID-19 dashboard. That includes 379 deaths reported on Tuesday, NJ’s highest single-day increase in fatalities since the pandemic began. Despite these alarming numbers, Governor Phil Murphy says data shows that the rate of infections and hospitalizations in NJ is “flattening” in the state. While this is promising, he also said this doesn’t mean we can “go back to business as usual, not by a long shot.”

While states like South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are starting to slowly reopen parts of their economies this week, it is unclear when this will be possible in New Jersey. A model developed by The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that’s getting a lot of attention suggests NJ may be able to start slowly relaxing stay-at-home orders in early June, according to its latest update

The IHME analysis of all 50 states suggests a timeline of when states can begin lifting some social distancing measures. That can only happen if serious containment strategies like continuing a ban on social gatherings are put into place to stop a second wave of infections. The model predicts coronavirus deaths in each state by incorporating cell phone data around the country to track how closely people are abiding by stay-at-home orders and avoiding contact with one another. For full details on the model and its forecasting, go to the IHME website.

While there is much debate about the effectiveness of various predictive models, health experts agree widespread virus testing will be necessary before we can begin to relax social distancing. The good news is that access to testing continues to increase. NJ’s own Rutgers University has been a bright spot on this front after getting FDA approval for a saliva test. And yesterday, the FDA approved the nation’s first at-home COVID-19 test.

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