CDC director warns that COVID-19 could return in winter combined with flu in deadlier second wave

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of an even deadlier second wave of COVID-19 come winter. 

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In an interview with The Washington Post, CDC Director Robert Redfield painted a grim picture of a combined flu and coronavirus epidemic devastating the nation’s health care system. 

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FILE - A nurse attends to a COVID-19 patient that is wearing a CPAP helmet while he is moved out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Pope John XXIII Hospital on April 7, 2020 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

“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. 

“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he added.

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Even as the United States has struggled to test enough people to track and control the spread of COVID-19, President Donald Trump has pushed for the return to normalcy as soon as possible, even before a vaccine for the virus is found. 

Trump gave governors a road map Thursday for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re starting our life again,” Trump said during his daily press briefing Thursday. “We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again.” He added, “This is a gradual process.”

The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the novel coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations. They make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak. And they largely reinforce plans already in the works by governors, who have primary responsibility for public health in their states.


WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17: Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House April 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Tru

A day after laying out this roadmap to reopen the country, Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” in response to a series of protests that had broken out around the country against COVID-19 lockdowns in which people have demanded local governments lift the orders that have left millions without work.

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In response to Trump’s calls for states to be “liberated," Redfield said: "It’s not helpful.“

Redfield emphasized the importance of social distancing as the only weapon people have against the coronavirus until a vaccine is produced citing the “enormous impact that it’s had on this outbreak in our nation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.