More COVID-19, flu cases expected following holiday gatherings

NOW: More COVID-19, flu cases expected following holiday gatherings

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind., --- Since Thanksgiving, the state of Indiana, including in St. Joseph County, have not only seen a rise in COVID-19 cases but also a rise in flu and RSV cases. With more holiday gatherings on the way, local health officials only expect numbers to continue to go up.

“We expected them to go up some kind of at this time of year. It’s concerning because we know cases are underreported,” said Dr. Mark Fox, the Deputy Health Officer for the St. Joseph County Health Department.

Health officials have sounded the alarm about a sudden spike in illnesses in the county.

Deputy Health Officer Dr. Fox said cases have skyrocketed since Thanksgiving from 85 to 154 per week per every 100,000 people, and with at home COVID-19 testing more readily available, he believes the true numbers are even higher.

“I think that vast majority of people are doing at-home testing and those never get reported. So, we know that’s it’s much more than just 154 cases per 100,000 cases per week. Our best estimate is somewhere between three and five times that number,” explained Fox.

But it’s not just COVID-19 posing a concern and driving up hospitalizations county-wide.

Flu and RSV cases, especially in children and older adults, are also creating concerns about a possible ‘tripledemic" -- fueled by holiday gatherings and wintry weather.

“I would expect flu and COVID numbers to get worse over the next month because cold weather will drive people inside,” said Fox. “We expect that there will be gatherings and religious services through the holidays.”

Fox adding this year flu cases in particular are hitting harder and earlier this season.

“There was less exposure risk because more people were in masks or more people were restricting their activities. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with underlying immunity as we were taking additional measures to protect ourselves and each other most of the last two years. I think that’s why we’re seeing higher and earlier rates now.”

So as many prepare to see friends and family in the next few weeks, Fox is reminding folks not to let their guard down.

"Take precautions by getting a flu shot, by getting a COVID booster. Staying home if you’re sick, wearing a mask if you’re interacting in public, especially large groups will help protect not only the individual but also help keep the health systems from getting overwhelmed again.”

Fox said St. Joseph is seeing lower flu rates than some of the other big counties across the state, with around 5% of people who go in to get tested coming back positive.

But again, he does expect an increase in flu, COVID, and potentially RSV cases following more holiday gatherings.

For more information on Covid-19 in Indiana, click here.

For more information on flu cases, click here.

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