A second wave of the coronavirus is expected to hit the United States next winter and could strike much harder than the first because it would likely arrive at the start of influenza season, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Tuesday.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield told the Washington Post in an interview.

As the current outbreak continues to taper off, as shown by a recent decline in hospitalization rates and other indicators, authorities need to prepare for a probable resurgence in the months ahead.

“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said, and the combination would put even greater strain on the nation’s healthcare system than the first outbreak.

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The virus, which causes a highly contagious and potentially fatal respiratory illness dubbed COVID-19, emerged late last year in central China. The first known U.S. infection, a travel-related case, was diagnosed on Jan.

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