by Carly Roman
As coronavirus cases surge nationwide, the flu has seen a remarkable dip. Reported cases of influenza reached record lows last week, with fewer than 40 diagnoses recorded during Dec. 13-19.
In week 51 of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “FluView” data monitoring system, 36 positive flu tests were documented. This marks a steep decrease from last year’s total of 7,703 cases during the same time frame. The positivity rate has sharply declined this calendar year as only 0.10% of tests taken this year came back positive. The five-year average is 15.80% positive.
The data comes in defiance of the “twindemic” concerns perpetuated by medical experts, or the idea that the raging coronavirus pandemic and the seasonal increase in reported flu cases would converge with catastrophic results. Dr. Brian Garibaldi, the medical director of Johns Hopkins University’s Biocontainment Unit, told the Washington Examiner that “we have to be concerned about the possibility of having a surge in flu at the same time as we’re seeing a surge in COVID.”
“In any given winter, hospitals are taxed by the flu,” Garibaldi said. “There’s always a concern that our emergency departments will be overwhelmed and ICU capacity will be strained [due to the concurrence of flu and COVID-19 outbreaks], particularly with people who have coexisting conditions that then get influenza.”
Some elected officials acknowledged the possibility of a so-called “twindemic” and laid out their proposals to combat a shortage of resources. In September, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona expressed concerns about dwindling supplies, vowing he was taking preventive action.
“The overlap of COVID-19 and flu season presents a perfect storm, and we aren’t taking any chances,” Ducey said. “We are approaching this fall with a proactive mindset and plan of action to limit the impact of the flu and preserve hospital resources.”
Other governors are taking disease containment plans a step further, shutting their states down for the second time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. States such as California and New York began their second rounds of heightened restrictions earlier this month.
According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, more than 19 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with the coronavirus to date, with more than 333,000 reported deaths attributed to the virus.