Don’t Drop Your Guard Against COVID, Flu, and RSV

Published in RINewsToday on December 12, 2022

COVID 19 cases across the nation are fewer in number than this time last year. But health care experts say that the Covid-19 is here to stay.

A new poll released by the Washington, DC-based American Psychiatric Association (APA), the nation’s oldest medical association, shows that while nearly a third of Americans report that while they anticipate being more stressed out this holiday season than last year, they are less worried about spreading or contracting COVID at a festive family gathering. Researchers say the findings, reported in the Dec. 2022 Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, reported they were more worried about affording holiday gifts. The APA’s study was conducted online by Morning Consult from Nov. 9-14, 2022, among 2,209 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Holiday Worries, Less Concern about COVID Pandemic  

According to the poll’s findings, 31% of adults say they expect to feel more stressed this upcoming holiday season compared to last. This is an increase of 9 percentage points since 2021. Potential drivers of holiday stress include worries like affording holiday gifts (50%) and meals (39%) and finding and securing holiday gifts (37%). Younger adults and those making less than $50,000 are more likely to worry about affording the holidays, say the researchers.

Compared to 2021, adults are less worried this holiday season about spreading (35% in 2021 versus 25% in 2022) or contracting (38% in 2021 versus 26% in 2022) COVID-19 at a holiday gathering, noted the researchers. Adults are also less worried about spending time with family who have different views about COVID-19 (30% in 2021 versus 18% in 2022),” they say.

“This is a busy time of year for many people, and it’s common to put a lot of expectations on ourselves during the holidays,” said APA President Rebecca W. Brendel, M.D., J.D in a Dec. 1st statement announcing the study’s findings. “We can all benefit by enjoying moments that bring meaning and belonging, but those times are different for each of us. It’s also okay to opt out of some or all events if they bring more stress or distress than joy. There is no one right way to spend the holiday time of year,” she said.

On the positive side, the researchers added, “the plurality of adults (47%) say they are most looking forward to seeing family and friends this holiday season, of the options tested. That varied by age: Older adults (45-64: 50%, 65+: 63%) are more likely than younger adults (18-34: 37%, 35-44: 36%) to say so. A fifth of American adults (21%) said they were most looking forward to eating good food.”

The researchers noted that parents (39%) are more likely than non-parents (27%) to say they anticipate experiencing more stress this holiday season compared to last year. “Young adults and Democrats are more likely to worry about discussing politics and spending time with family with different viewpoints about COVID-19 during the holidays,” they say.

“While Americans are looking forward to seeing family this year, it’s important to remain vigilant about COVID-19, the flu and RSV,” warns APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We are in a different situation than in 2020 or even 2021, but it’s still important to take precautions and stay home if you are sick,” she said.

Beware of the “Tripledemic”  

 With the Christmas holidays just weeks away, older adults must now not let their guard down about protecting themselves against a “tripledemic” of COVID, flu and RSV, says Nick Landekic, a retired scientist and biotechnology entrepreneur who is a contributor to RINewsToday. 

“COVID is now a pandemic of older people,” warns Landekic in a Dec. 9 article in the state-wide news blog. “With the year-end holidays upon us and infection rates rising across the country, the stark new reality is COVID is now a pandemic of older people,” he says.

“Right now, is a particularly risky time with a ‘tripledemic’ of COVID, flu, and RSV, with almost the entire country at ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of infection. Hospitalizations and deaths are both up sharply over the past two weeks, with deaths increasing as well,” says Landekic.

According to Landekic, the most accurate predictor of ending up hospitalized or dying from COVID is age. “Older people are thousands of times more likely to die of infection than younger persons,” he says, noting that the statistics bear this out. “Ninety percent of COVID deaths are now among those over 65. Over 300 Americans continue to die of COVID every day, and nearly 1,000 just on December 7 – a rate of over 100,000 a year – and most of them are over 65,” he says.

(COVID is now a pandemic of older people – Nick Landekic: https://rinewstoday.com/covid-is-now-a-pandemic-of-older-people-nick-landekic)

“You don’t want to get sick from one of these viral  infections and miss visiting with family and friends during the Christmas and New Year holidays, says Michael Fine, MD, author and chief health strategist for the City of Central Falls, adding that  “we’re in a “tripledemic” of COVID, flu and RSV (filling the nation’s pediatric hospitals). “It’s the worst flu year we’ve seen in recent memory,” he says, noting that “it has come early and hit hard.”

Dodging the Bullet 

During the upcoming holidays, Fine says it is easy to protect yourself against the “tripledemic” to prevent infection.  He recommends the importance of getting a bivalent COVID booster  if you haven’t had a booster during the last four months.

“You want to be extra careful two weeks before attending holiday gatherings,” says Fine, a family physician who contributes on health and medical issues (as well as short stories) for RINewsToday and is the former Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.  Specifically, wear masks in stores and avoid restaurants and bars for about two weeks before a gathering or planned travel. “I don’t think many are eating outside at this point,” he quips.

“Wearing a mask in an airport terminal is important when traveling to family gatherings,” says Fine.  While there is good air infiltration in the air, it is not so in terminals, he adds.

When attending a holiday gathering with multiple households, it is a very good idea for everyone attending to take a COVID 19 home test. “It is not perfect but better than nothing,” says Fine.

“Those who have not been vaccinated yet, you still have time to do so before attending those holiday gatherings,” says Fine

Fine believes that people who haven’t yet been vaccinated can take comfort from the last two years and our now extensive experience with the vaccine. “We have two years of experience with the vaccine with billions being vaccinated.  We haven’t seen any substantial programs. It’s now the best tested vaccine in history,” notes Fine. 

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