Health officials concerned about the “fragile” healthcare system as winter approaches

As the colder months approach, those in charge of public health and those who specialize in the field are keeping a close eye on instances of flu and COVID-19.

At the same time, they are urging New Yorkers who are eligible to receive vaccinations to get their flu shots and COVID-19 boosters. This is being done to make it less likely that both diseases will overwhelm the hospitals, which are already in bad shape because of the pandemic.

The majority of COVID-related restrictions on wearing masks inside have been abolished in the state of New York. The COVID-19 tests are no longer made available without cost by the federal government. In addition, there is the worry that individuals who want things to go back to normal are starting to get exhausted from the pandemic.

The authorities have high hopes that this winter will be “normal,” without any complications for schools or hospitals, but it also poses a new challenge for public health professionals and those who are vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.

“Everything is gone, so everyone is definitely worried the flu cases will rise more than usual, and that could definitely put strain on the health care system,” said Tomoko Udo, a professor at the University at Albany’s public health school.

Public health officials in New York have to deal with polio and monkeypox outbreaks, which means that this year’s problem will be even harder to solve.

“With the monkeypox and polio outbreak in the state right now, I think their attentions are diverted to other urgent issues,” Udo said.

Here is where the COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccines, for those individuals who are eligible to get them, will come into play. According to Sara Ravenhall, who works for the New York Association of County Health Authorities, the responsibility of distributing flu shots and COVID-19 boosters is falling mostly on the shoulders of public health officials.

“Many of the local health departments are setting up vaccine clinics and making sure that people have access to equitable vaccine distribution,” Ravenhall said. “So they’re playing a monumental role.”

In addition to the local clinics, pharmacies also provide flu vaccinations and COVID-19 shots, both of which may be delivered at the same time.

This week, New York health authorities are kicking off their own campaign to raise awareness about the need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu by releasing public service announcements.

However, obtaining the necessary resources will be challenging.

“Right now local health departments are having a challenging time recruiting public health nurses, environmental sanitarians and other really critical workers that are needed for our ability to respond to upcoming public health emergencies,” Ravenhall said.

According to the statistics provided by the Department of Health during the first week of October, there was an increase in the number of people who were diagnosed with the flu in some areas of New York state. Getting vaccinated and receiving booster doses on a regular basis is one strategy to keep patients from putting an additional burden on the healthcare system.

“It’s really critical that we all do our part as community members to make sure that our families are protected, our friends are protected and health care workers are protected during this time,” Ravenhall said.

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