Several Southern California hospitals have begun using overflow tents outside emergency rooms to cope with an increasing number of patients with the flu and other respiratory illnesses.
Tents were set up at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, UC San Diego Health’s Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla, and Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa.
The move comes amid an increase in flu symptoms among patients in the emergency room in San Diego County. The dominant strain, H3N2, seems to lead to more serious diseases than normal.
About nine percent of these patients had flu symptoms last week, up from 7 percent two weeks ago, according to a county report that also signaled an increase in patients with COVID-19 symptoms, though not as fast.
Scripps hospitals and doctor’s offices reported 1,695 positive flu tests since Sept. 1, up 259 percent from 471 in the same period a year ago.
The Disease Control Centers has said the flu and other viral illnesses have gotten “significantly high” in New York City, Washington DC and several states in the south — Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Several Southern California hospitals have begun using overflow tents outside emergency rooms to cope with an increasing number of patients with flu and other respiratory illnesses
Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encitas. Scripps hospitals and doctors’ offices reported 1,695 positive flu tests since Sept. 1, up from 471 in the same period a year ago
Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa has also set up tents to care for additional patients
UC San Diego Health in La Jolla is another hospital that has faced a plethora of flu cases
Health experts said it was not immediately clear whether flu cases would reach an earlier-than-usual peak in California, where the majority of cases occur in December to February, or a prolonged flu season.
Cases of flu have also struck the Southern Hemisphere early this year, leaving experts to question whether it will last until February or just burn out sooner. San Diego Union Tribune reported.
“The fear is that everything is just kind of a reflection of everything else and once you’ve had the flu, you can still be affected by COVID or whatever virus you get,” said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Scripps Health’s chief medical officer of acute care surgery and clinical excellence.
According to a new report released Friday, the Biden administration will extend COVID-19’s status as a health emergency beyond January and possibly through spring, despite the president’s earlier statement that the pandemic is over.
“I’m hopeful, but we still plan it to be that way until February,” Sharieff said.
The expansion comes amid fears of a resurgence of cases this winter as people spend more time indoors. Some experts are even concerned about a ‘triplemic’ of COVID, the flu and the respiratory syncytial virus or RSV
Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services last month extended the order through Jan. 11, telling states they would be given 60 days notice before the public health emergency is lifted.
A busy flu season is not unexpected. The country experienced two mild seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts fear the flu could make a strong comeback as a COVID-weary public has moved away from masks and other measures to curb the spread of respiratory viruses.
Much of the United States is experiencing a rapid start to the flu season. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more flu cases are being reported than is normally expected at this time.
There may be some good news: COVID-19 cases are trending downward and have leveled off in recent weeks.
Biden administration will extend COVID-19 health emergency status beyond January and possibly spring
And in a few parts of the country, health officials think they may be seeing early signs that a wave of another respiratory virus may be starting to subside. RSV or respiratory syncytial virusis a common cause in children of cold symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever.
As RSV continues to rise nationally, preliminary data suggests a decline in the Southeast, Southwest and in an area that includes the Rocky Mountain states and the Dakotas, CDC officials said.
Experts think infections from RSV have increased recently as children are now more vulnerable and no longer protected from common insects as they were during pandemic lockdowns. Also, the virus, which usually affects children 1 and 2 years old, is now making more children up to the age of 5 sick.
The beds at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital have been full for 54 days.
“The curves are all going up for RSV and the flu,” said Dr John Cunningham, Comer’s chief physician.
RSV diseases appear to be unusually serious, he added.
Comer has had to decline transfer requests from other hospitals because there was no space. Hospitals in the Chicago area could have transferred children to Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin, but that has stopped. “They don’t have any beds anymore,” Cunningham said.
There is no vaccine against RSV yetbut there are injections for flu and Covid-19. Health officials say flu vaccinations in both children and adults have declined compared to before the pandemic, although the number of children has risen since last year.