California’s COVID, Influenza, and RSV Cases Surge After Thanksgiving

Whether you’ve completed your Thanksgiving or not, the post-holiday scenario brings a stark reality – hospitalizations from COVID and influenza are on the rise. However, what’s noticeably different is that it’s occurring at a reduced pace compared to last year’s numbers. Especially trending amongst this is the evolution of COVID from an emergency virus to an endemic one, much like the flu. California, ending its COVID-19 state of emergency in February, has switched its COVID dashboard to a new respiratory virus dashboard, a well-timed change coinciding with the onset of our fourth winter with COVID amid the mix.

As Dr. Peter Chin-Hong put it – “COVID is still the leading cause of new hospitalizations and deaths nationally. It’s a reflection of the same at UCSF”. With around 20 patients currently hospitalized for COVID, this is a notable spike compared to 10 patients in early November, though considerably lower than last winter. The emergence of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is also on the increase, impacting nearly 1.5% of all emergency room visits in California recently.

Risking life-threatening pneumonia or lung airway passage inflammation for older adults and young ones, the RSV’s swift rise should not be underestimated. There’s a noticeable delay in this year’s flu and RSV activity compared to last. Despite there being an increase in ER visits, death rates this year indicate lower fatalities in comparison to the same period last year.

Hospital admissions for COVID, much like those last year at this time, around 300 daily, stand in stark contrast to this year’s meager 50 per day admissions for influenza. They worry that these numbers will keep steadily growing due to varying demographics contributing to low vaccine uptake for COVID. The idea of the storm that might not even come sums up the situation quite aptly. The Association of Bay Area Health Officials recommends additional precautions as levels of circulating respiratory viruses increase, concentrating on winter virus safety protocols, and reinforcing the critical need for flu and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Passing off on an RSV infection this year is no longer the only option, as the FDA recently approved the first RSV vaccine and the early months of the pregnancy, proving to be a beacon of hope for adults aged 60 years and older.

Concerned by this emerging crisis, Dr. Chin-Hong advocates getting the flu and COVID vaccine for everyone’s safety – a decision that shouldn’t be delayed. With prudent behavior and preventive options, it might still be feasible to nudge the meteoric virus surge.


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