What to Expect From the Third Wave of COVID-19 in Late Fall/Early Winter

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDNovember 24th, 2020
hospital doctor wearing mask

A third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has come to the United States. While this wave has only crested in locations where prevention protocols have remained strict, other locations are suffering from the full force of the crash. What does this third surge in COVID-19 cases mean for cities and rural America?

Many answers concerning COVID-19 and its predicted impact on these populations are still up in the air as scientists and leaders continue to figure out the virus’s puzzle and the next best steps for our nation. With that in mind, we’ve put together this resource to help streamline reliable information and offer ER healthcare alternatives during the third wave of COVID-19.


What’s Being Forecasted

Modeling groups across the country are working hard at predictive research to help us understand what we can expect over the next few months. Based on these predictive models, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that anywhere from 1,100,000 to 2,500,000 new cases will likely be reported by December 19, 2020.

The vast range of potential new cases can be attributed to varying degrees of social distancing, use of face masks, and other interventions—all of which may or may not be employed over the next few months. Take into consideration, for example, the model projected by IHME. NPR reports that with continued easing of social distancing guidelines and no mandates imposed, our country would see a large uptick in deaths, resulting in a total of 482,932 deaths by February 1st. But with 95% mask usage in every public location—and if face mask mandates were to be issued for 6 weeks when daily deaths reach eight per million—we’d save about 168,159 lives, with projected potential total deaths totaling 314,773 by February 1st.

What This Could Mean for Civilians

More than 11 million people in the United States have had confirmed coronavirus infections, and that statistic only includes the documented COVID-19 cases. Thousands of new cases are reported daily, and with the third surge currently sweeping the nation in addition to the predicted spike around the holidays, the total number of new cases is peaking. For civilians, the third wave of COVID-19 could look a lot like the first and second: lockdowns, strict enforcement of public safety practices, and social distancing mandates.

What This Could Mean for Healthcare Professionals & ERs

It’s hard to understand the full effect that COVID-19 has had on the nation when stats, concerns, and practices vary from state to state and person to person. The most alarming, big-picture concern involves the third wave’s affect on healthcare professionals and ERs.

The healthcare industry is still trying to cope with the daily onslaught of COVID-19 cases, testing, and hospitalizations. A third surge, especially in light of holiday celebrations, will likely increase the number of coronavirus-related hospital stays this fall and early winter. This could potentially lead to overcrowding problems, which can impact equipment shortages and create more financial challenges—not to mention, increase stress on front-line healthcare workers.

During the course of COVID-19, many hospitals and healthcare systems have developed solutions and coping strategies to meet the ever-increasing demands. But as we look at late fall/early winter and consider seasonal challenges like flu testing and weakened social distancing mandates in light of the holidays, these solutions might not hold. A third wave has the potential to become a tipping point, one that could critically impact the healthcare industry and the nation as total COVID-19 cases and death counts quickly increase.

The Importance of Maintaining Public Health Practices During the Holidays

Being diligent when it comes to practicing public health guidelines is now more important than ever, as holiday celebrations threaten to bring the third wave to tsunami heights. From wearing face coverings to respecting 6-foot social distancing suggestions, together we can help flatten yet another COVID-19 curve and protect the impact that it will have on ERs. In some cases, this will require sacrificing old holiday traditions and embracing new, long-distance celebrations, such as:

  • Celebrating holidays virtually
  • Hosting an outdoor celebration with immediate family
  • Mandating that guests follow

    CDC safety guidelines

  • Encouraging small gatherings, where guests bring their own food and drinks

Of course, accidents still happen around the holidays, and germs can easily spread no matter how many precautions are taken. If you are at risk of developing COVID-19 complications due to an underlying health condition, skip the celebrations this year, stay alert about community levels of COVID-19, and step up your precautions. If you or a loved one starts displaying COVID-19 symptoms and don’t want to risk exposure at an ER, DispatchHealth can help.

DispatchHealth’s On-Demand Healthcare Alternative


DispatchHealth delivers medical care as a convenient, cost-effective alternative to avoidable emergency room visits. Their medical teams provide testing, treatments, and wholesome care in the comfort of their homes. In doing so, we have helped ease the burden on our healthcare partners (including health systems), providing them with the extra set of hands they need to respond to the third wave of COVID-19 and provide the at-risk population with an alternative way to receive urgent medical care.

In response to COVID-19, our staff is following strict disinfection protocols before, during, and after each patient visitation. We provide safe and personalized care for every individual, wearing PPE gear like N95 respirator masks, gowns, gloves, and shoe coverings. We’ll do whatever we can to make your experience comfortable, offering tests and support to people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

To learn more about how DispatchHealth is responding to COVID-19 click here. Requesting care is as easy as contacting us via phone, mobile app, or website.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

  1. https://time.com/5893916/covid-19-coronavirus-third-wave/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/here-are-the-states-where-covid-19-is-increasing
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6939e4.htm
  4. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/09/01/816707182/map-tracking-the-spread-of-the-coronavirus-in-the-u-s
  5. https://www.aha.org/guidesreports/2020-05-05-hospitals-and-health-systems-face-unprecedented-financial-pressures-due
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/forecasts-cases.html
  7. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/10/16/924240204/how-bad-will-coronavirus-be-this-winter-model-projects-170-000-more-u-s-deaths
The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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