The start of flu season is being met with trepidation by public health officials and experts in New York amid a coronavirus pandemic that could spike once again in the cold weather months.
A concerted push is now to make sure people get their flu shots this year -- offered in many workplaces and local pharmacies -- to lessen a potential burden on the public health care system.
"Last year was a tough flu season in New York," said David Sandman, the president and CEO of the New York Health Foundation. "We actually had the highest number of reported flu cases in history. So it was a priority coming into the year to raise the rates of flu shots as high as we could and beat that back."
The foundation this week released a report raising concerns with the coming flu season amid a pandemic.
Among them: The pandemic could be harder to fight with more patients coming in with illnesses that are similar to coronavirus. That, in turn, could have a cascading effect on testing and hospital capacity.
"If people are sick, if they can't differentiate, they're going to go to their doctor's office or the hospital for testing," Sandman said. "It's going to put a stress on labs to do the testing, it's going to put a strain on hospitals to quarantine or triage people who have COVID or don't have COVID. It's going to really drain scarce resources to deal with the COVID pandemic."
And people of color, who have already been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, could be especially vulnerable this year.
"We already have wide disparities in race and health care," Sandman said, "and we don't want to see those get any wider."