Flu Season Could Strain Hospitals, CDC Director Warns

by Kristine Cannon
Doctor holds mask in hand
athima tongloom/Getty Images

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield also emphasized ’embrac[ing] the flu vaccine with confidence’

As if our country’s hospitals weren’t already overwhelmed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield recently expressed concern over the upcoming flu season and how the combination of the novel coronavirus pandemic and flu season could strain hospitals.

During a Journal of the American Medical Association livestream yesterday, Redfield said, “The biggest fear I have of course by COVID and flu at the same time, is that our hospital capacity could get strained.” And with both the flu and COVID-19 causing problems this fall, “we could end up with another loss of significant life. We need to stay vigilant to the mitigation steps right now.”

While Redfield called this upcoming fall and winter possibly “one of the most complicated public health times we have with the two coming at the same time,” he said if Americans continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing, frequently wash their hands, and continue to be smart about crowds, “this could be one of the best flu seasons we had — and particularly if they do one more thing: and that is to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.”

According to ABC News, the CDC purchased 9.3 million additional doses of the flu vaccine with a goal of “65 percent vaccine acceptance across the board.”

The CDC estimates that during the 2019-2020 flu season, which stretched from Oct. 1, 2019 to April 4, there were between 24,000 and 62,000 deaths. For comparison, COVID-19 has killed more than 174,000 people in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. And according to the CDC today, the COVID-19 death toll could top 200,000 by Sept. 12.

“This week’s national ensemble forecast predicts that 3,700 to 9,600 new COVID-19 deaths will be reported during the week ending Sept. 12 and that 187,000 to 205,000 total COVID-19 deaths will be reported by that date,” the CDC wrote on their website. Earlier this month, the CDC predicted that between 175,000 to 190,000 total COVID-19 deaths would be reported by Aug. 29.

The CDC also stated that the number of reported new deaths per week will likely increase over the next four weeks in Minnesota, and they may decrease in 13 jurisdictions. “Those with the greatest likelihood of a decrease over the next four weeks include Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina,” the CDC said.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.