Will there be a second wave of coronavirus? California doctor says 'definitely,' explains key factors

Dignity Health chief medical officer explains a second wave next season and what we can do to best prepare.

KABC logo
Friday, April 24, 2020
SoCal doctor: 'We definitely will see a second wave'
COVID-19'S NEXT WAVE? Dignity Health chief medical officer gives perspective on a second wave next season and what we can do to best prepare.

While California may have hit a peak in terms of hospitalizations - there is still a lot of concern about keeping things headed that way. When is too soon to open back up? Do we risk a second wave of infections if restrictions are lifted too early?

Dr. Nicholas Testa, the chief medical officer with Dignity Health Southern California, joined ABC7 via Skype to share his perspective.

When could we see the COVID-19 "second wave" and how prepared are we?

"So, you know there's two things that are going to influence the second wave. One, is the relaxation of the social distancing measures we have in place. The second thing is going to be the seasonality, right. So we don't know about the seasonality, so that I kind of have to defer. But the social distancing, we know there's going to be natural erosion of the social distancing and then, there's also all of this conversation about social distancing measures being decreased. And as soon as that happens, we definitely will see a second wave - the question is how significant is it gonna be?," said Testa.

MORE: CDC warns 2nd, stronger wave of coronavirus could hit U.S. next winter

The head of the CDC is warning a second wave of the coronavirus could hit next winter and it could be worse because it will coincide with flu season.

Regarding immunity, we don't know if someone has immunity just because someone had it in the first place, correct?

"Correct. There's a lot of research happening right now because we're going to be doing the antibody testing. Antibodies tell you if you are immune or not, but we don't know what the new profile looks like for a patient yet. So it's great that we're gonna be doing this antibody testing, it's going to give us the first step for understanding immunity, but we got a long ways to go before we fully know what a new immunity patient looks like," said Testa.

MORE: Answers to questions about new coronavirus antibody studies

Blood samples collected from about 3,000 people indicated that nearly 14% had developed antibodies to fight a coronavirus infection, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily news briefing.

In regards to preparing reopening society, how do we prepare?

"Well, so the way we prepare is everything we've done for the last six weeks. So, society has taken on this great burden of staying at home and taking the economic hit, and it's allowed hospitals and health care systems to ramp up and prepare. Because we know social distancing is going to stop - either because there's a government mandate or it's just going to erode. I mean you go out and drive, you see that people are back on the streets. It's eroding naturally over time, so we've done a lot to get prepared and have a lot of things in place, so that if that second wave comes, we're gonna be a lot more ready for it," said Testa.

Ventura County is easing restrictions, and with that county being our neighbor, is there a possibility that everything we have gone through might not be effective?

"Well, I think what's most important is how we open, right? So this is not an on-and-off switch. It's a dimmer. So when we talk about opening up - we can't just turn everything back on, that's not going to be smart. What we're definitely gonna see is a spike of patients then, right. Only about 5% of Los Angeles County have probably been exposed. So when we open up and needs to be very logical, calculated way. So yes, we'll lift the stay-at-home orders, but we're probably not going out to dinner and we're probably not going to be going to concerts and sporting events. We're going to have to do this in a very calculated way. And I think it's important that we do that - in that calculated way. Because if we don't and we just tell everyone to stay at home indefinitely, we're going to see more of what we're already seeing, which is people are just gonna take their lives back naturally," said Testa.

WATCH: Dr. Jen Ashton on a possible 2nd wave of COVID-19 infections

ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton goes over the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the relationship between obesity and coronavirus, and the coronavirus-related death reported on Feb. 6.