As fall approaches in much of the world, many people are anxious about what will happen when cold weather forces people indoors. Will the virus resurge with a vengeance, especially as people return to offices and schools reopen?
To get a preview of the fall, we spoke to Donald G. McNeil Jr., The Times’s infectious disease expert, whose job has become envisioning the future of the coronavirus crisis.
We’ve been warned about a “fall wave” for a long time, but then we had a bad summer wave. What most worries you about the fall?
I try to avoid “wave” metaphors because each outbreak is unique. New York City and Sturgis, S.D., both had bad ones, but months apart and for different reasons: New York in February because of tourists returning from Europe; Sturgis in August because of a motorcycle rally where masks were disdained.
But yes, autumn really worries me. Outbreaks are exploding at colleges all across the nation. There may initially be fewer deaths because students are young — but professors aren’t.
And soon, chilly weather will drive people indoors, where studies suggest you are 20 times more likely to get infected. By midwinter, if we aren’t careful, the death toll could head back up toward its April apex.