Ex-Obama adviser Zeke Emanuel on COVID: 'It's scary. It's going to go up'
Some U.S. states have beaten back the novel coronavirus after cases increased in the spring. However, public health experts fear that winter will trigger a second wave of the deadly disease.
The number of cases of COVID-19 is already rising again in many countries. An ABC analysis shows 28 states increased on Friday, with an average of more than 44,000 new cases in seven days - the highest number since August 21.
"It's scary. It will rise. It is hard to believe that it will not rise," said Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former health policy advisor under President Barack Obama, to Yahoo Finance on Friday in the "final round".
Winter is at increased risk of contagion, largely because cold weather encourages people to go indoors, noted Emanuel, who serves as chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that indoor spaces are riskier than outdoors, and recent research supports this recommendation.
A health worker takes a nasal swab sample from a student in New York City on October 8, 2020 to test for COVID-19. The governor of New York announced tough new restrictions in several areas earlier this week. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)
In April, researchers in China published a study of 7,324 cases in that country, with only one outbreak occurring outdoors. The outbreak resulted in only two cases.
"We increase the risk of transmission in closed rooms, indoors ... Over a longer period of time with groups indoors. This increases the risk of transmission, ”said Emanuel. "When winter comes, people go in."
And if people walk in with new groups of people, we will see more cases of COVID-19, according to Emanuel.
"This is what every public health person, including myself, is concerned about over the next few months and the rise in cases, and with them, the rise in hospitalizations and mortality," he said.
There are over 7.6 million cases in the US (Graphic: David Foster / Yahoo Finance)
"That seems to be the key number for very widespread events."
In the northeast, in particular, there has been an increase this fall as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio closed schools in nine "high-risk zip codes" a few weeks after they opened. On Friday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced new coronavirus emergency funds of $ 60 million. On the same day, an analysis by the New York Times found that the Garden State had averaged 769 cases per day for the past week, up 66% from the daily average two weeks ago.
The increases are also due to more states easing restrictions - such as bans on indoor restaurants - that have harmed businesses in the US but have also kept the virus in check. New York City, once the epicenter of the country's pandemic, allowed limited indoor meals from the end of September.
In his interview with Yahoo Finance, Emanuel noted how the US can once again contain cases, including reducing "dangerous events for the spread" such as dining indoors and weddings and funerals indoors. He also recommended reducing the number of people to 20 or fewer, although New York State now allows social gatherings of up to 50 people in many parts of the state.
"That  seems to be the key to very widespread events," he said.
Still, Emanuel said that certain outdoor activities should be encouraged, not discouraged, as long as people are six feet apart and wearing masks when possible. For his part, he has had dinner with others outside, setting tables eight feet apart in front of outdoor heaters, and bundling himself up with blankets.
"You know, we're planning this as long as possible. But these are the things that we have to do," he said. "Eating out with other people inside, not a good idea."
Erin Fuchs is Associate Editor-in-Chief at Yahoo Finance.
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