People may be tiring of the pandemic, but there’s still a long way to go, health officials warn.
“I think we are all concerned that we may be entering a period of revived and increased COVID activity,” said Dr. Lawrence Neville, Chief Medical Officer for PeaceHealth’s Columbia Network. ”More locally we’re seeing some early warning signs that we may be heading into a rough patch.”
The number one driver for this rise is household exposure, followed by private social gatherings, he said.
“We reached a low point in July, and I think we were all hoping we would stay at that low point but unfortunately it is occurring to climb and has reached levels we haven’t seen since early in the pandemic,” he said.
When it comes to holidays, Neville said people must make some difficult decisions.
“There are no easy answers related to this,” he said. “We recognize it’s a tough situation, tough choices and it’s not perfect. We’re all waiting for the pandemic to end, peter out.”
As the weather gets colder and flu season approaches, Neville said it is more important than years before that everyone gets their flu shot so hospitals don’t become overwhelmed like some other states experienced during surges of COVID-19 cases over the summer.
“The way to prevent this is for as many people as possible to get a flu shot,” Neville said. “Frankly the symptoms for COVID-19 and the flu overlap a lot, it’s hard to tell them apart.”
He said that while some of the symptoms may overlap, like cough and fever, mistaking one for the other could lead to more transmission of the coronavirus.
“I do worry people will blow off, in a sense, the symptoms that may be COVID-19 and think it’s the flu,” he said. COVID-19 is more infectious overall, so people who have contracted it could go out and about spreading it before their symptoms even show, which can take up to 14 days, he said.
Neville said that people who think they might have the flu should contact their doctor if they experience heightened shortness of breath or begin to lose their sense of smell or taste.
The majority of cases, around 80%, are mild to moderate and may feel like a bad case of the flu, Neville said. He said the long term impacts of the new disease are not fully known yet, sometimes symptoms linger after the disease is gone. It is known that the mortality rate for COVID-19 is between five to 10 times higher than the average seasonal flu, he said.
People with existing medical challenges are at a greater risk to the course of COVID-19, he said. People should be cautious when they are with loved ones who are older or have a condition that might put that at an elevated risk.
PeaceHealth has a hospital in Longview, Washington. Columbia County residents in need of urgent care are often taken to Longview or the Portland metro area.