Dr. Craig Spencer, who survived Ebola, on surge of coronavirus cases

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When Dr. Craig Spencer got on the New York City subway Monday morning following an overnight hospital shift, the emergency room doctor said all the people he saw were wearing masks. 

“I think that people here remember how bad it was, really just a month, two months, ago and we don’t want to go through that again,” Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said Monday on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.”

“We’re hoping that everyone around the country learns the lessons that we unfortunately had to learn the hard way,” Spencer said, as New York City enters the second phase of its coronavirus reopening while other states across the U.S. see a spike in cases. 

New York City, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, has seen its daily count of Covid-19 cases fall dramatically from its late May and early April levels, when more than 5,000 new infections were frequently being reported each day. Daily cases have been under 400 for over a week, according to the city’s health department. 

Yet other parts of the country, such as Texas, Arizona and Florida, are seeing a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks — some of which is due to increased testing capacity. But more than a dozen states are seeing a rise in coronavirus-linked hospitalizations, a metric that is less sensitive to the availability of testing, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. 

Spencer said he is observing positive signs in New York City’s fight against Covid-19. “It’s actually not so common that we’re seeing Covid patients now in the emergency department,” he said. “We’re coming back to some type of normal in our emergency department.” 

But Spencer said he is worried by the increases in other parts of the U.S., where the landscape in some places is different from New York City’s. The persistent existence of community transmission, particularly now in the warmer months, puts the U.S. in a precarious position entering the fall, he said.  

“I’m quite concerned that we had this peak, that we’ve started to trend down and now we’re going right back up again,” said Spencer, who survived Ebola in 2014 after contracting it while working in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders.

“We all thought that the summer was going to be relatively lower spread, people would be outside. Most of these viruses decrease transmission in the summer. But we’re going up, which I think sets the stage for a really bad fall and winter if we don’t get this under control soon.” 

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