Kids are heading back to the classroom and friends and family are gathering to enjoy the last few weeks of summertime fun in the sun. But as more people get together in large groups, cases of coronavirus along with other respiratory issues are again spiking, and some experts are encouraging masking once again for older adults with underlying health conditions.
According to a recent CNN Health report, COVID-19 hospital admissions are up more than 18 percent in last week’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Concerns over the overlap of coronavirus, seasonal flu, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) also have experts debating the need for masking in public spaces.
It’s most likely that COVID-19 and its variants have become endemic – something we will have to continue to deal with like the flu. Since 2020, much has been accomplished to help prevent infection with vaccines and boosters, and to treat serious illness. Masks and improved ventilation can also help to reduce the transmission of the virus. Especially during flu and RSV season, it’s vital that people continue to stay home when they are sick and practice good hand (and sneeze) hygiene.
Adults over the age of 65, and those with a serious underlying health condition such as heart or lung disease or who are immunocompromised continue to be at higher risk for serious illness from the coronavirus. Staying up-to-date with boosters, and taking precautions like masking or social distancing may be recommended by a healthcare provider. Vulnerable individuals who contract the virus should also be aware of antiviral medication that can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by up to 80 percent.
If you are a vulnerable older adult, opt for outdoor gatherings when possible, stay current on COVID-19 boosters, and consider wearing a well-fitted, high-quality mask in crowded indoor spaces such as airports or sporting events. People who are frequently in contact with elderly adults may want to wear a mask in crowded places in the days leading up to a visit to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. Discuss the options with your doctor for vaccines for RSV, coronavirus, and seasonal flu this fall to help ensure a healthy autumn and winter.