‘Second wave’ of COVID-19: Colorado epidemiologist says cause isn’t entirely known

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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado is experiencing a so-called second wave of COVID-19, resulting in stricter public health orders and concern over another potential shutdown. 

The state hit an all-time high for COVID-19 cases reported this week, with a seven-day average of more than 1,500.

Colorado is also experiencing a higher average of the number of people testing positive for the virus. In October, the seven-day average positivity rate jumped from 3.36 percent to 7.02 percent. The goal is to keep that number under 5 percent.

Dr. Lisa Miller, a professor of epidemiology at Colorado School of Public Health says there are a number of basic concepts that could explain why viruses come in waves, particularly coronavirus. 

“One is susceptibility. We know that as long as there are people that are susceptible out there, there will continue to be virus spread,” said Miller.

Miller says COVID-19 trends depend largely upon human behavior and how the population responds to public health orders.

“We can dampen it if we decrease social interaction but as soon as we let up on that brake that wave is going to go back up,” said Miller.

History shows other deadly viruses came in similar waves. The 1918 influenza pandemic swept along in three separate waves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those waves came in spring, fall and winter, with the most deaths occurring in October in the United States. In 2009, the Swine Flu saw its first wave in the spring followed by a second in late October. 
Miller says the patterns of prior pandemics are not necessarily an indicator of how COVID-19 trends will fluctuate.

“I think we’re going to get more information out of our current experience and looking at our neighbors from state to state or country to country to really try and understand what can work,” said Miller.

Miller says there are likely other factors contributing to the rise in COVID-19 cases now that are still unknown. 

“I don’t know if anyone understands it fully yet. We do know what works and we do know the basic way the virus is transmitted. If we can maintain that social distancing and wear masks, we do know that can dampen the curves,” said Miller.

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