Quarantine déjà vu
Will the second Covid-19 wave be a repeat of the spring?
On Friday, November 13, 2020, a friend of mine commented that this would be the first “Friday the 13th” since that fateful day on March 13, 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic changed the world as we know it. She jokingly asked “Wouldn’t it be funny if Friday the 13th really was cursed, and we started March 13 all over again?” Not considering myself very superstitious, I laughed it off, but with the current circumstances, it is hard to deny that this fall wave of Covid-19 and quarantine feels eerily familiar to our first quarantine back in the spring of 2020.
If you’re experiencing this déjà vu feeling too, you definitely are not alone. In fact, there are a lot of striking similarities between the spring Covid-19 wave and our current wave of infections that could explain this feeling. For one, we are seeing the same record high daily cases and deaths, hospitals are overloaded with patients, and new restrictions, like Ohio’s recent statewide curfew, have begun to set it in.
And the pattern of a short break followed by an “extended school closure” due to Covid-19 precautions is also very reminiscent of our spring break earlier in the year.
However, while we all remember how the remote learning period following spring break stretched much further than we anticipated, that does not have to mean that the fall will be the same. In reality, any efforts to make predictions, or even guesses, about how the fall and winter surge of Covid-19 will look is stymied by the lack of information we have about the virus. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch told the New York Times that his efforts to predict how many Covid-19 patients would need intensive care were hampered by the lack of basic information about an average hospital stay. “It makes for a lot of guesswork” Lipsitch added.
While the second surge of Covid-19 makes it seem like we are right back where we started, that does not mean that we have not made progress since March. Contact tracing studies have taught us more about the spread of Covid-19, antibody studies have helped us treat the virus more effectively, and possibilities of vaccines might even be on the horizon.
But regardless of whether you think we have made progress in the fight against Covid-19, or ended up back where we started, the more important takeaway is what we have learned and can apply to avoid a repeat of the spring’s pattern of infections. According to Tanya Albert Henry of the American Medical Association, a leader at one of Michigan’s largest health systems, there are a few key takeaways from our first battle with Covid-19 that can inform a better response to this second surge. First and foremost, says Betty Chu, MD, MBA, the senior vice president and chief quality officer for Henry Ford Health System in Detroit & a leader of Michigan’s Covid-19 response, “is making sure leadership provides consistent messaging regarding people’s security and safety.” Along with ramping up employee support and providing for ample supplies and staff to compensate for skyrocketing infection and hospitalization rates, lessons like these will be key to avoiding a replay of the spring.