An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Covid Surge May Have Peaked; Watch Out For Flu Season

Courtesy of CDC

Health care officials say the Covid surge in Washington may have hit its peak statewide, a few weeks before the flu season will officially begin. 

Dr. Steve Mitchell from the Washington Medical Coordination Center in Seattle says about 1,500 Covid-positive people are receiving hospital care today [Monday]. That’s down 200 since a peak reported September 9. Cassie Sauer of the Washington State Hospital Association says there are two possibilities for the reduction.
“One of the reasons the hospitalization rates are falling is that death rates are rising," she said. "When you’ve got fewer people in the hospital, it is because some have died. You all have probably heard that there are a number of counties that are ordering additional morgue capacity through refrigerated trucks or working with their morgues to figure out how to increase capacity.”
7,200 Washingtonians have died from the virus. More than 840 of them have been in Spokane County. Sauer says another reason for the hospitalization decline may be that more people are getting vaccinated and wearing masks in public places.

On another note, the traditional flu season is approaching and while no one is exactly sure how severe it will be, some health officials predict it could be worse than last year. The CDC says flu activity was unusually low during the winter of '20-'21 for several reasons. People were physically more isolated and had fewer opportunities to pass the virus to each other, especially in schools. They wore face masks and washed their hands more often.
Sauer says this year will likely be a different story.
“There is a ton of concern about the flu season and the ongoing Covid cases. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if we’re going to get another variant. It feels like a Petri dish of Greek alphabet letters headed our way.”
During the 2019-'20 flu season, the CDC estimates 38 million people contracted the flu, 400,000 were hospitalized for it and 22,000 died from it. Health officials say similar numbers this year would put a significant burden on a health care system that is already overwhelmed by a combination of Covid and non-Covid cases. The flu season typically begins in October and peaks between December and February.