If the public health officials’ predictions are true, we’re in for a “tripledemic” of viruses — influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19 this winter.
But in reality, many of your hospitals are already seeing RSV numbers that normally wouldn’t be seen until December. Knowing that these numbers are concerning, especially so early in the season, we are currently working with others on contingency plans that would help relieve some of the strain on your hospitals, should there be a need in the future.
At the same time, the number of confirmed flu cases is rising as well. For the week ending Oct. 22 in San Diego County, the total lab-confirmed cases of flu to date were 2,528 (compared to 232 at the same time last season and 196 for the prior five-year average during the same week). And, to no one’s surprise, COVID-19 remains ever-present in our region and throughout the state. With new variants and subvariants that may be more contagious, it’s possible that we could see a surge at any time.
The governor’s recent announcement on the termination of the state of emergency means that your hospitals — which are already dealing with sicker patients who are staying longer — will no longer have the flexibilities offered by space waivers or the ability to hire much-needed, out-of-state health care workers. These flexibilities have been employed during the pandemic and are vital to your hospitals’ abilities to deliver care to all who need it.
With the potential for a perfect storm of viruses, members are encouraged to take steps to prepare. In advance of the Feb. 28 termination, hospitals are asked to consider, now, what permanent or temporary waiver flexes will need to be extended — before the needs become critical. In addition, other steps can be taken to potentially lessen the strain, including urging staff to receive COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccines and communicating with patients and your communities about the importance of these vaccines.
We’d also like to remind members of the county of San Diego’s health officer order, which requires influenza vaccination or masking of health care personnel (HCP) during the influenza season. HCP are required to receive an annual influenza vaccination, or if they decline, wear a mask during influenza season, while in contact with patients or working in patient care areas.
As always, we are here to help. Please reach out with any questions or concerns and be safe.