‘Tripledemic’ concerns local health officials, want masks back indoors
It is time to put your masks back on when you are indoors, according to Washington state public health leaders, as a perfect storm of illnesses looms over the Seattle Metro area.
While the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID are all currently surging in local case numbers, it is now possible to get all three of these sicknesses at once, leading local health officials and healthcare leaders to pen a letter urging for more masks indoors.
“Well, we’ve seen such a spike in cases of the flu and of RSV, which really affects kids. And we’re seeing a little uptick in COVID cases and concerns about what we’re seeing in other parts of the world that new variants may be emerging,” said Cassie Sauer, the CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association Services. “And hospitals are really full of respiratory illnesses. And people are missing stuff. Schools have a ton of absences and workplaces have a ton of absences.”
The letter advises people to stay home from work and school if symptoms start to form and to plan for rapid treatment for COVID-19 and influenza for those at increased risk.
Improving indoor air quality through ventilation, filtration, and UV technology where appropriate was also recommended.
“It’s the combination of all three. I think if there was only one of these diseases circulating, we might not feel like we needed to make this recommendation,” Sauer said. “But when you got RSV and flu, and there’s still COVID, we’re seeing a little uptick in COVID cases. And so all three of these diseases sort of hitting at one time, it is just really challenging to handle.”
UW Medicine has coined this flu season “historically severe” so far.
Hospitals are still overflowing with patients, as flu-related hospitalizations are higher for this time of year in over a decade. Wearing a mask indoors, according to the letter, can help prevent avoidable hospital trips.
This issue has stretched across the nation as hospitals are struggling to maintain enough space for their patients. Almost 80% of all inpatient beds are occupied nationwide, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“It really is trying to hopefully keep people healthy so they can enjoy the holiday season,” Sauer said.
For Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee formally ended the state of emergency and all remaining COVID-19 emergency proclamations on Oct. 31.