'3rd wave' of COVID-19 likely in California, predicts top UCSF epidemiologist 

Dr. George Rutherford said what's going to drive the cases back up is easing restrictions as the state moves out of the second wave and the fall school year.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Brace for another wave of coronavirus. That's the message from a top epidemiologist at UCSF.

While some experts say California is still in the first wave of coronavirus cases, UCSF's head of disease and global epidemiology Dr. George Rutherford told reporters Wednesday that a "third wave" -- or surge -- of cases is essentially inevitable.

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"I don't think we'll get back to a true baseline before we see a third wave," Dr. George Rutherford, UCSF's head of disease and global epidemiology, told reporters Wednesday. "We'll probably see it go back down a little bit before it starts to go back up again."

Rutherford said California appears to be at the end of a second wave and that it would be "almost impossible" to return to a baseline number of cases given how widespread the virus is and the number of infections.

He said what's going to drive the cases back up is easing restrictions as the state moves out of the second wave and the fall school year.

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"Especially as we start letting adolescents into school, I think we'll start seeing bounces from that. I think that part is just inevitable," he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to knock this down far enough that we'll be able to use contact tracing more aggressively."

Rutherford made these remarks during a press conference with Dr. Joel Ernst, chief of UCSF's Division of Experimental Medicine. The two also discussed a race for a vaccine.

Ernst said it is hard to say when a vaccine will be ready for distribution -- and even then there will be challenges on who gets it first -- but that Dr. Fauci's prediction it could come by the end of the year is optimistic.

"Not unreasonably optimistic, but certainly on the optimistic end of the spectrum. In other words, that everything will go right," he said.

He said the best case scenario is that a vaccine will be ready by the end of the year. The worst case scenario, put forward by some of the people designing the trials, is 2022.

"I think it will be sooner than that," Ernst said. "It's easier to say let's split the difference somewhere between Dr. Fauci's optimism and the vaccine trialist's conservatism."

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