Apr 22, 2020 - Health

CDC director attempts to clarify "second wave" remarks after Trump backlash

CDC Director Robert Redfield clarified comments he made in an interview with the Washington Post about the second wave of the coronavirus, stating at a press conference Wednesday that the winter outbreak won't necessarily be "worse," but rather "more difficult" because it will coincide with the seasonal flu.

Why it matters: President Trump called the headline in the Post — "CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating" — "ridiculous" and "fake news." Redfield said he found the headline "inappropriate" but that he was accurately quoted in the story, and that he hopes it will help convince Americans to get a flu shot.

What he's saying:

"The issue I was talking about being more difficult is that we're going to have two viruses circulating at the same time. This spring we had a benefit of having the flu season ending so we could use all our flu surveillance systems to say this is coronavirus, we need to focus. Next fall and winter, we are going to have two viruses circulating and we are going to have to distinguish between which is flu and which is coronavirus. And so the comment that I made — it's more difficult. It doesn't mean it's impossible, it doesn't mean it's going to be worse. It just means it's more difficult because we have to distinguish between the two."

Worth noting: Redfield tweeted out the Post article on Tuesday and did not make reference to the headline that he said he found "inappropriate."

The big picture: Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, members of the coronavirus task force and infectious disease experts, backed Redfield's assessment about coronavirus returning in the fall — even as Trump insisted that it "might not come back at all."

  • "What Dr. Redfield was saying, first of all, is that we will have coronavirus in the fall," Fauci said. "I am absolutely convinced of that because of the degree of transmissibility that it has come of the global nature. What happens with that will depend on how we are able to contain it when it occurs.
  • "What we are saying is that in the fall, we will be much, much better prepared to do the kind of containment compared to what happened to us this winter."
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