Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, leading public health experts are issuing warnings as virus cases rise in New York. The new uptick in cases comes as New Yorkers face another challenge: the onslaught of flu season, which begins tomorrow and could coincide with a potential second wave of coronavirus cases. Last year’s seasonal flu season infected more New Yorkers than ever previously recorded by the State.
Now, when you factor in the ongoing pandemic, keeping flu numbers low will be more important, and more challenging, than ever.
The New York State Health Foundation has a new report out which details some of those challenges and how to overcome them.
Some key takeaways
The upcoming flu season will potentially make it harder to fight the pandemic because a large number of patients will make it more difficult to discern between flu and COVID-19; treating flu patients could potentially deter from treating COVID-19 patients; and patients with flu will be at greater risk of COVID-19.
The flu season could widen racial and ethnic health disparities, which were only made worse by the pandemic
Flu cases can overstress the health care system, already strained because of the pandemic
The report stresses why now, more than ever before, New York needs to expand its outreach specifically aimed at people of color, who have been disproportionately killed by the coronavirus.
Black and Hispanic residents have died at more than twice the rate of white residents in New York City and more than three-and-a-half times the rate of white residents in New York State. Communities of color are more likely to have a pre-existing health condition and their flu vaccination rates are historically low.
To make this flu season less severe, the report says New York needs to increase the number of vaccination locations; ensure medically underserved areas get an adequate supply of flu vaccines; and increase its efforts to counter misinformation regarding vaccines.