BALTIMORE — As some states begin lifting coronavirus safety restrictions, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security says he worries the country will see waves of new COVID-19 cases through summer and fall.
Tom Inglesby appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to discuss realistic timelines for easing social distancing and the limitations of data on coronavirus cases. The director is one of the doctors advising Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on his coronavirus task force.
While some states like Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska are easing shutdowns, Inglesby said officials should remember that the virus is still highly transmissible.
“Nothing has changed in the underlying dynamics of this virus,” he said. “If we stop social distancing altogether tomorrow, we would recreate the conditions that existed in the country in February and March.”
Inglesby forecast “waves” of new coronavirus cases throughout summer. And the fall season, he said, will likely bring additional challenges to battling coronavirus including the reemergence of influenza.
“We’re going to have two concurrent large public health challenges at the same time,” Inglesby said “I am worried about the uptick in hospitalization rate and the more people needing intensive care in the fall.”
Inglesby called the country’s access to coronavirus testing and operations a “patchwork.” Some states have tested enough people for coronavirus that its percentage of positive cases is low. Other states have a high percentage of people testing positive and that’s worrisome, Inglesby said.
In the coming months, the country will need to better understand the number of mild and moderate cases of the coronavirus, he explained to “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.
“If we don’t know who they are, then we can’t break their chains of transmission?” Inglesby said. “We can’t isolate them. We can’t quarantine their contacts. So we need to know much more about the mild and moderate illnesses around the country and that will come with more diagnostic testing.”
States and individuals will still need to continue social distancing efforts such as maintaining six feet distance from others, wearing masks when in public and avoiding large gatherings.
“The extent to which we’re able to do that over the next couple of months will dictate how we do as states and as a country,” Inglesby said of social distancing.
Inglesby rose to public prominence in March after he penned a viral Twitter thread that was critical of President Donald Trump’s desire to walk back social distancing measures.
He is also a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the school of medicine, according to an online biography.
(Baltimore Sun reporters Phil Davis, McKenna Oxenden and Daniel Oyefusi contributed to this report.)
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