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Experts share concerns over COVID-19 and flu season overlap

Posted at 11:39 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 23:39:26-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Flu season is fast approaching and experts continue to warn about what it means for the flu to happen alongside COVID-19.

“If we continue to social distance and wear masks the hope is the flu season won’t be as bad,” said Dr. Stephen Turkovich, Oishei Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer, said during the 7 Eyewitness News Special 'Safely Back to School.' He continued, “If you add the flu vaccine on top of that, we have a really good chance of decreasing the flu significantly this year.”

Last year was a record-setting season in regards to the flu. At the end of February, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the total confirmed flu cases surpassed the highest number since the state started tracking it.

“You put the flu season on top of COVID. This is a very difficult situation to deal with,” Cuomo said in a conference call last month.

Since that statement, New York has issued several preventive steps before the flu season ramps up.

On Monday, the New York State Health Department issued an emergency regulation about testing for both viruses. It impacts hospitals, nursing homes, funeral homes and coroners specifically.

“This will maintain the integrity of our data. It will remove any reporting of presumed cases. This is very important information to have,” Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Health Commissioner, said.

Two weeks prior, the governor sent a letter to county health departments asking them to plan to test both viruses simultaneously.

“Therefore testing will become very important in this setting,” said Dr. Thomas Russo. 7 Eyewitness News spoke with the infectious diseases expert about this very topic earlier this summer. Experts like Dr. Russo agree each flu season is difficult to predict.

“I think it’s best if we assume, that we could have a bad flu year and we want to take very precaution possible to minimize the chances of a widespread outbreak in Western New York," Dr. Russo said.

Experts said the best way to stay protected is to get a flu shot and get it early.