Experts stress vigilance in holiday plans to prevent hospital strain: 4 notes

Hospital and public health officials are urging people to take precautions and be mindful of where they seek care to limit capacity strain on emergency departments as respiratory virus activity heats up heading into the holiday season. 

Since early September, COVID-19 metrics had mostly been trending downward or remained flat. Now they are on the rise again, though they remain far below levels seen in previous surges. There were 16,239 new admissions for the week ending Nov. 11, up 8.6% from the previous week. 

Meanwhile, most of the country is seeing an uptick of flu and respiratory syncytial virus cases. Hospitalizations associated with the two infections are also ticking up, particularly among children and older adults. 

"The more concerning thing is the severity of some of the illness," Hany Atallah, MD, chief medical officer Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, told ABC affiliate WPLG. "And we are also seeing some patients come in with more than one viral infection, so they may have RSV and flu, for example. We're constantly trying to follow the science and encourage people to get vaccines." 

Three more updates: 

Curbing capacity strain: To prevent resource and capacity strain on hospital emergency departments, officials are urging patients to consult their primary care providers or an urgent care clinic for nonemergency situations. 

"We ask that people save those nonemergent visits that historically have gone to our emergency room for either urgent care clinics in the area or wait until they can see their primary care provider early next week," Tanny Davenport, MD, chief medical officer at MultiCare Yakima Memorial Hospital in Washington, told the Yakima Herald-Republic in a Nov. 20 report. "All those things together I think could really help contain and limit the disease burden in the community." 

Calls for masks, precautions reemerge: Calls for universal masking in healthcare settings and other precautionary measures are reemerging as virus season kicks off. In a Nov. 20 virtual conference, the Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity, urged the state to require universal masking ahead of an anticipated winter respiratory virus surge. The group also pushed for the return of free COVID-19 tests, more education around the virus and for access to high-quality masks such as N95s for better protection, The Boston Globe reported. 

Overall, health experts are recommending a back-to-basics approach to curb the spread of respiratory illnesses this winter.

"We really go back to the basics, so the basics are good cough hygiene, sneeze hygiene – sneezing into the crook of your arm — handwashing before and after meals or any kind of social contact or social interactions will go a long way to prevent a lot of transmission of respiratory viruses and bacteria, particularly those that are spread by droplets," Bill Messer, MD, PhD, an associate professor of molecular biology and immunology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, told CBS affiliate KOIN, who also recommended masking in crowded indoor environments, such as airports and public transportation. 

"It's kind of a triple threat. None has declared itself as being the overriding triple threat, but we know from very recent experience that this holiday season is going to bring one or more of these to the surface for sure, and doing everything we can to kind of limit that impact on ourselves and our family members and friends who mostly we're seeing now over the holidays, we should be attentive to that," Dr. Messer said. 

Vaccine coverage: About 35 million people, or nearly 14% of the nation's adult population, have received the new COVID shot, according to the latest CDC estimates. About 35% of adults had received a flu shot as of Nov. 4, as well as 33% of children. Only 14% of adults 60 and older have received the new RSV vaccine. 


Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars