“Tripledemic” hitting healthcare workers hard after three years of COVID

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 8:12 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Hospitals and hospital staff just can’t catch a break.

After two years of dealing with the deadly COVID-19 virus, hospitals are now hit with a “tripledemic”, COVID, flu and RSV.

“The public, I guess, is protected or shielded from seeing what’s going on,” said Dr. Joe Gerald, the Director of Health for the University of Arizona.

But the hospitals are not shielded and are bearing the brunt of COVID numbers which increased by a third is just a week and flu and RSV numbers which are the highest in a decade. The public is not seeing what’s going on behind the hospital walls.

“We’re not seeing an emergency room where people struggling to breathe, watching people puke their guts out, they are just numbers,” Dr. Gerald said. “We wake up and read the box score.”

“That box score is the state data dashboard which shows 15,983 new cases this week, four thousand more than last week. We see the numbers. The medical staff sees the people.

“The system in being stressed, not to the degree it was at the peak of COVID, but nevertheless, when you think about our healthcare professionals on the front line now for almost three years now with one threat after another,” said Dr. Richard Carmona, the former US Surgeon General.

Because this year, not only is COVID the threat, but so is influenza which started earlier than usual this year and RSV which is seeing its worst year in more than a decade. “There’s a considerable amount of lives that have been lost and disrupted because of these illnesses and our job as public health professionals is to try to manage that to keep the burden as low as possible but still allow people to live their lives,” Dr. Gerald said.

But what is missing this season, is full co-operation from the public which is suffering COVID fatigue. Vaccine uptake has been sagging with fewer than one in ten getting the new bivalent booster shot. Mask wearing, while still a personal choice has been spotty at best, leaving some health departments and professionals frustrated.

“It’s always going to be a line between pushing too hard and alienating the population and creating resentment versus structuring them so they work and they’re accepted,” according to Dr. Gerald.

But for some that acceptance is hard to come by. leading to what we have today, a tripledemic with another eight weeks or more before it begins to slow.