New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday state health authorities are “very concerned” about the upcoming flu season, warning it will make the coronavirus pandemic more complicated “in many ways.”
“You’re in the flu season. Everybody is sneezing, everybody is coughing and everybody has a runny nose. Who has the flu and who is possibly Covid positive? It becomes a much more difficult calculus,” Cuomo said during a news briefing.
“Maybe God is good and he says to us this year, ‘you’ve been through enough. I’m going to give you a light flu season this year, which we would deserve, by the way.’ But it is definitely a stresser on the system,” he added. “It’s going to add additional stress on the hospitals. It’s going to add additional stress on the testing facilities.”
Cuomo said many of the testing facilities that are being used during the pandemic are the same ones used during the flu season. “They are going to turn around and say to me, ‘I can’t do 100 Covid tests anymore. I can only do 60 Covid tests because I have to do 40 flu tests,” he said.
U.S. health officials have repeatedly warned that they are preparing to battle two bad viruses circulating next fall and winter as the coronavirus outbreak runs into flu season. Health officials had hoped the coronavirus would abate during the summer months, but that has not happened. The coronavirus has continued to rapidly spread, infecting more than 5.4 million Americans and killing at least 170,000 as of Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Now, health officials fear the pandemic in the U.S. could get worse as temperatures get cooler and people spend time together indoors.
Covid-19 is “not going to disappear from the planet,” White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said, adding that infectious disease experts learned about how the virus behaves by watching outbreaks in other regions such as southern Africa that entered their colder seasons.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned in a WebMD interview last week that America is bracing for “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”
“We’re going to have COVID in the fall, and we’re going to have flu in the fall. And either one of those by themselves can stress certain hospital systems,” he said.
He has urged Americans to get their flu shot as well as follow CDC guidelines such as wearing masks and washing hands frequently.
New York state, once the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, now has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. On Sunday, New York’s infection rate reached 0.7%, the lowest rate since the outbreak began, Cuomo said.
“We are averaging 1% or under since June. That is exactly where we want to be,” he said.
Earlier in the briefing, Cuomo announced that gyms across the state, which have remained closed for about five months, can resume indoor operations with some new precautions as soon as next week.
Cuomo has repeatedly warned in recent weeks that even as the numbers remain low, New Yorkers must remain vigilant because the virus could quickly bounce back if people, businesses and officials rush to reopen.