(LOS ANGELES) — With hospitals across the nation flirting with max capacity in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, medical professionals have something else to worry about now — flu season. Doctors and nurses are bracing for what could possibly be a very worrisome fall.
While the flu is statistically not as deadly as COVID-19, it is highly contagious — infecting between nine to 45 million Americans annually since 2010. While the flu can cause up to 61,000 deaths annually — according to the CDC — COVID-19 has infected over 6.5 million Americans since March and has killed nearly 195,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Leslie Gomez, a nurse in the Emergency Department at Sharp Chula Vista, tells ABC News, “Flu season can hit really hard and COVID-19 has been devastating so I’m worried that these two forces will combine and cause a really difficult fall and winter.”
“We are on our way to being prepared,” assured Gomez. “We’re all a little nervous, but I think we got it.”
However, other leaders in the medical industry are urging others not to feel complacent as the nation enters flu season.
Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that fall and winter 2020 pose a “potential for disaster.”
“We are still on what we think of as a razor’s edge with regard to COVID,” said Marazzo. “The challenge we have right now is that we’re entering traditional flu season and flu season is completely, to some extent, unpredictable.” Even moreso, Marrazzo cautions that the public might become fatigued to practicing social distancing and might not wash their hands or wear masks as often as the nation largely spends more time indoors.
“So the big concern is we could see what could be a perfect storm of accelerated COVID-19 activity,” she said, noting that both flu and COVID-19 patients may need breathing tubes and ventilators to survive — supplies that hospitals say are already strained.