Public Health Expert Warns That Coronavirus Becoming ‘Forest Fire’ That Won’t Slow Down In Summertime

People on a beach in Florida.
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Public health experts are warning that there could soon be new outbreaks of the coronavirus, including one expert who is predicting the virus will become a “forest fire” that is not slowing down in summertime as many had hoped it would.

As The Week noted, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned during an interview on Sunday that many southern states are headed to the kind of exponential growth that places like New York City experienced in the early days of the spread through the U.S.

He warned that states like Florida and Texas are in danger of stretching their hospital capacity, though both states still have ample beds available. Many of these states have seen cases start to rise after it appeared early lockdown efforts allowed them to “flatten the curve” and bring the spread under control.

Gottlieb noted that if the virus does experience exponential growth, it could make the situation change very rapidly, as it did in New York City in early March.

“Everything looks okay until suddenly it doesn’t,” he said.

A number of states, especially those in the south, that reopened economies early and often against the recommendation of public health experts, have begun to see rapid growth in cases.

As the New York Times reported, both Florida and South Carolina have set records for the number of new daily cases reported. Oklahoma and Texas have also seen rapid growth, prompting some local health experts to call on Donald Trump to reconsider holding his rally in Tulsa that took place on Saturday night, fearing it could lead to a local outbreak that could overwhelm the hospital systems.

Trump ultimately decided to go forward, with no social distancing requirement in place and many supporters showing up without masks or social distancing.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, also showed concern for the spread of the virus, saying he sees the pandemic as a “forest fire” that spreads wherever it has room.

While there was some initial hope that the novel coronavirus could emulate the traditional seasonal influenza virus and taper off in the heat of the summertime, Osterholm said this doesn’t appear to be the case.

“Wherever there’s wood to burn, this fire’s gonna burn,” he said.

As Osterholm and other experts point out, the virus appears to be burning across many American southern states.