Healthcare experts have warned for months about the potential for a serious coronavirus wave to hit in the fall. Unfortunately, it now appears those warnings were right.

Several countries in Europe are reporting higher numbers of COVID-19 cases than they did in the spring. Canada is clearly experiencing a second wave of outbreaks.

In the U.S., COVID-19 numbers are rising significantly in at least 38 states, in what many scientists are calling a third coronavirus wave. The first wave primarily impacted the Northeast last spring. The second wave hit southern states in the summer. Now, the third wave appears to be sweeping across much of the nation.

Should investors run for the hills in anticipation of another market meltdown? Not at all. However, it's wise to be discerning in how you invest. Here are two stocks that look like smart picks to buy as the third coronavirus wave begins.

Man looking at translucent digital images of coronaviruses and a world map, with a city in the background

Image source: Getty Images.

Abbott Labs

Like many companies, Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) has experienced challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company's established pharmaceuticals and medical devices businesses were especially impacted by the coronavirus outbreaks. However, Abbott has also benefited from the pandemic.

The healthcare giant now claims six COVID-19 diagnostic tests on the market. Abbott's biggest winner in this group is the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag [antigen] Card diagnostic test. It's cheap ($5 per test) and fast (results are available within 15 minutes). With the U.S. government already purchasing 150 million of these tests, Abbott's BinaxNOW is shaking up the COVID-19 diagnostics market. A third coronavirus wave will boost the company's COVID-19 diagnostics sales even more.

However, there's a bigger story for Abbott than just its COVID-19 tests. Wall Street analysts project the company will deliver average annual earnings growth of close to 15% over the next five years. Several products will be key to achieving this growth, especially Abbott's FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring system and its MitraClip heart valve device.

In addition to these strong growth prospects, Abbott also offers investors an attractive dividend. The company ranks as a Dividend Aristocrat, with 48 consecutive years of dividend increases under its belt. It's likely that Abbott will increase that streak to 49 years in the near future.

Teladoc Health

Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) stands out as one of the biggest winners from the COVID-19 pandemic. Its stock has skyrocketed more than 150% so far this year thanks to a surge in demand for telehealth services.

In the second quarter, Teladoc's online visits more than tripled year over year. The company's revenue jumped 85%. The third coronavirus wave in the U.S. is likely to drive increased adoption of telehealth services. Teladoc has already projected that its revenue will grow 16% quarter over quarter in Q3. The fourth quarter could deliver even stronger growth.

But will Teladoc's momentum wane once the pandemic is over? I don't think so. Virtual healthcare visits keep costs down for payers, and are much more convenient for patients. It's not surprising that surveys in recent months have found that many Americans plan to continue using telehealth services after the pandemic ends.

Sure, Teladoc faces increased competition. Even big technology companies could emerge as rivals over time. However, Teladoc's pending acquisition of Livongo Health (NASDAQ:LVGO), which provides a digital platform to help individuals manage chronic health conditions, should make the company's offerings even more attractive to clients.

Teladoc estimates that its total addressable market in the U.S. alone is around $74 billion. Livongo brings another $47 billion addressable market to the table. Even if more companies enter the virtual-care market, that market is big enough to support multiple players. I think that Teladoc will be a long-term winner for investors -- not just during the third coronavirus wave, but beyond.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.