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Will COVID-19 Mutate By Fall? Why That Could Be a Good Thing

June 04, 2020

As the world’s eyes skip over the summer to a potential resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall, the major advantage will be experience and preparation, according to Hartford HealthCare‘s chief clinical officer.

Dr. Ajay Kumar said reinforcing and reinstituting protective measures such as social distancing and isolation early and thoughtfully will also help curb the impact on the economy.

“We need to be careful how we introduce these measures and get ahead of the curve,” he said, adding that “we’re better learned people” because of the experiences this spring.

He anticipates a smoother process as healthcare organizations better manage supplies of personal protective equipment (PPEs) that many struggled to obtain at the height of the pandemic, and teams are familiar with processes designed to protect patients and staff and prevent spread of the virus.

“Hopefully, there will be better drugs available, too,” Dr. Kumar said.

The one unknown about the anticipated second wave, he continued, is whether COVID-19 virus will mutate. Viruses often do that and, typically, he said the mutation is “less virulent,” although no one knows what will happen with COVID-19. In addition, the second wave will coincide with the onset of the seasonal flu season. Both illnesses present with similar symptoms and the overlap alone will tax hospital capacity.

“We will continue to watch the data and react appropriately in a timely fashion,” he said.

Meantime, he cautioned against attending large events where social distancing is challenging. He urged people to follow state guidelines when it comes to gatherings, but acknowledged the behavioral health impact of isolating for too long.

“It’s a balancing act between being too restrictive – which can cause mental health and anxiety issues – and not,” Dr. Kumar said. “Balance the risk and get as much information as you can before making a decision.”

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