Winter COVID-19 waves and strict pandemic measures last year and the year before, prevented many Americans from celebrating the holidays as they used to in the years before the pandemic began. Because of the high vaccination rate and the fact that the majority of the population now has immunity against the virus, health experts do not anticipate an increase in COVID cases this winter. This year’s Thanksgiving weekend was a period of gatherings, including big crowds, shopping, and jammed airports—a well-known picture of what Thanksgiving should look like.
People are getting used to living with the virus, and the majority now think of COVID-19 as something closer to the flu than a dangerous disease. The number of COVID-19 cases has increased in recent weeks, but that’s expected as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors. According to the Times’ COVID-19 tracker, the 14-day change shows a 7% increase in cases compared to the previous period, but numbers seem stable.
During the pandemic, lockdowns, school closures, and strict pandemic measures were commonplace. The number of flu cases in the last two years was significantly lower compared to previous years, and that was expected having in mind that people were avoiding gatherings as much as they could. Flu cases have significantly increased this year as the country reopened and people resumed their normal, pre-pandemic daily activities, and health experts are concerned that the worst is yet to come.
The U.S. influenza season has arrived much earlier than usual. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first detected the early increases of flu activity in mid-October. Since then, flu cases have been growing rapidly nationwide, and combined with COVID-19 and RSV cases, hospitals are facing a serious challenge in the upcoming period when respiratory illnesses are expected to reach their peak. The country is now facing a “Tripledemic”, a combination of RSV, COVID, and flu.
Hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients, and per a recent report, the number of children seeking medical help lately is among the highest in years for this period of the year. The Tripledemic comes at a time when hospitals across the country are still facing huge labor shortages, and things are probably going to get worse because health officials expect a surge of respiratory illnesses in the upcoming period after the Thanksgiving weekend. In the case of a post-Thanksgiving surge, an influx of cases should be expected by the end of this week.
Doctors advise everyone to be on the lookout for early symptoms. COVID-19 is now considered the least serious disease among these three, but people should immediately seek medical help if they get infected with the flu or RSV. Those eligible are advised to get vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 and follow their vaccine schedule. When it comes to RSV, things can become more complicated, particularly in young children and the elderly.
According to health experts, early detection is key to preventing the development of serious symptoms. In addition to the available vaccines, people are advised to stay home if they develop any symptoms and test for COVID-19 or flu.
“There are things you can do with RSV, is avoid congregate settings, and particularly, if you have a cold or are sneezing, stay home, wear a mask, wash your hands,” Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said.