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Local expert says rising COVID rates and a bad flu season could result in a 'twindemic'

Madison Ruffo
WRVO Public Media

Local COVID-19 numbers are on the rise in central and upstate New York. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Onondaga, Oswego, and Jefferson counties as areas with high community COVID-19 levels.

Dr. Stephen Thomas, the Director of the Institute for Global Health at SUNY Upstate Medical University, said he has a message for people when it comes to COVID-19 prevention:

"It's all now on you,” said Thomas. “It's all on the individual to be making these smart decisions."

Thomas said it’s important to remember the risk of COVID-19 is still out there. Since mask mandates and gathering limits were lifted, we’re seeing the fall COVID-19 spike hit a little earlier than recent years, when numbers started to go up around Halloween.

And Thomas said COVID-19 isn’t the only thing he’s keeping an eye on this season.

"I think flu's going to come raging back,” he said. “Not just flu, but RSV, rhinovirus, enterovirus, metapneumovirus, pneumococcal pneumonia, I think they're all going to be making a resurgence."

Thomas said now is a good time for people who are in higher risk groups to make a plan to take precautions, especially people who are over age 65 or have significant medical conditions. That could mean masking at indoor events, getting a flu shot, and getting the new Bivalent COVID vaccines, which are designed to protect against the original strain of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

Getting COVID-19 and another illness like the flu at the same time can make symptoms even worse, and Thomas said he has concerns about the effect the coming months will have on a healthcare system still struggling from the strain of the pandemic.

"We're going to be back in, a little bit, of a land of hurt because of the number of people who need to be admitted to the hospital,” said Thomas. “But there's not going to be room at the inn, and you're not going to have the staffing."

Thomas said one way to mitigate the spread would be for people who are at high risk of getting infected and spreading it to others, like medical workers and teachers, to also consider extra precautions, like masking and making sure they’re up to date on boosters.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.