NewsYour Health MattersAsk Dr. Nandi

With COVID, Flu, and RSV surges ongoing, health officials urge masking in areas with high community levels

New Jersey lawmakers advance bill that would fine shoppers for not wearing masks in stores
Posted at 3:36 PM, Dec 12, 2022

(WXYZ) — Respiratory illnesses continue to surge. And health officials are back to urging residents living in areas with high community levels to mask up when indoors.

Many Americans are tired of indoor masking, but it is a way to slow the spread of tridemic illnesses – the flu, RSV and COVID.

Masks are very effective – especially high-quality ones like surgical masks or respirator masks. They really can lower your odds of getting infected with any of the respiratory viruses that are spreading through our communities right now – including influenza, RSV and COVID. That’s why the CDC is, once again, urging Americans to wear face coverings.

The agency’s map that tracks COVID-19 community levels shows more areas with high infection levels. In fact, almost every state has at least one high-risk area. Here in Michigan, it’s Schoolcraft County, which is up north. For most of Southeast Michigan – including Monroe, Washtenaw, Livingston, Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb – the COVID-19 community level is medium.

And with the holiday season upon us, and family and friends gathering, I’m highly concerned numbers for respiratory illnesses will spike – including here in Michigan. And that could really strain our hospitals and health care system. And trigger drug shortages.

It looks like it could be a rough winter for our seniors. Hospitalization admissions are rising across the nation because of the tridemic viruses. In particular, we’re seeing numbers rise for COVID. In just two weeks, the rates of seniors hospitalized rose by more than 30%. And over 50% are ages 70 and older. And unfortunately, deaths are also rising. Our daily national average is 466, many of whom are older adults.

And it's not only COVID, people are also dying of the flu. There have been over 7,300 deaths from the flu so far. And over 120,000 hospitalizations, according to estimates from the CDC.

It’s unfortunate that respiratory virus activity remains elevated across the US. So far, millions of Americans have already been ill with one of these viruses. We have to think that it’s not just about the individual that’s sick, it’s the spread that happens when an infected person is outside their home. Whether that’s shopping, working, or attending holiday parties. But we can all work together to lower transmission rates. And we do that by wearing masks in public places, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated against both COVID and influenza.