New York – Several counties in New York state are in the orange zone with “high” COVID levels, according to the CDC’s color-coded map, which shows the number of COVID-19 cases and transmission rate. In these counties, residents are again highly advised to wear face masks, especially in crowded spaces and indoor settings. These New York counties are only part of the growing number of areas across the nation with high COVID transmission rates where wearing masks is now encouraged, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current guidelines.
The Tridemic, a combination of COVID-19, flu, and RSV cases, is pushing hospitals nationwide to their operational limits. The situation is especially serious in the pediatric departments, as a record-high number of children are getting infected with flu due to weakened immunity from previous years. Health experts are concerned because the peak of the flu season is yet to come and COVID-19 cases are expected to rise in the coming weeks.
The Biden administration decided earlier this week to re-launch the free at-home tests program, and every American household is now eligible for up to four tests. Rapid tests will be shipped as early as next week, just ahead of the Christmas gatherings. Although an influx of COVID-19 cases like in the last two winters was not expected, the numbers have been surging for weeks, and the White House administration wants to slow down the spread of the virus. According to the NYT tracker, the 14-day trend shows 33% more COVID-19 cases and 50% more deaths as a result of the virus.
Vaccines remain the best weapon we have in combating the spread of the flu and COVID-19, but masking is again something that everyone should practice regardless of the areas we live, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said earlier this week.
“We also encourage you to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses,” said Walensky, adding that people living in areas with high levels of COVID transmission should especially consider masking.
Currently, about 5% of the US population lives in areas with a high COVID-19 spread rate, but masking is also advised for people who live in areas with low COVID-19 spread rates. Walensky once again noted the risk of getting infected with other respiratory viruses, such as the flu. This year, the flu season has started much earlier than expected, and more people are getting infected with the flu despite the fact that this year’s vaccines are a good match for the circulating strain. Hand washing, staying home when you’re sick, and increased ventilation are some additional measures to be taken into consideration during the respiratory virus season.
Hospitals across the nation are having a hard time dealing with the influx of patients. According to CDC data, nearly 5,000 people have died from the flu this season, while nearly 9 million have been infected. Nearly 80,000 Americans have been hospitalized since the start of the flu season. These numbers are the highest the country has seen in the last decade. Children are not immune to the flu. So far, at least 14 children have died as a result of the flu, and a record-high number of youngsters are seeking help in hospitals.
The Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics last month asked the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency in response to the surge of pediatric hospitalizations from RSV and the flu.