'Tripledemic': Pima County issues public health advisory as COVID, flu, RSV cases fill hospitals
Influenza cases spike 2,500% over last winter
COVID-19 transmission is back at "high" levels across Arizona, and local hospitals are being filled up with flu and RSV cases as well, prompting Pima County to issue a public health advisory about the "tripledemic" of respiratory infections.
New coronavirus cases are at a nine-month high, and influenza cases are seven times higher than normal. Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus are also rising quickly. COVID is striking both people who have been infected previously, and those who have never contracted the virus before.
People who are sick should stay home, and everyone should consider wearing a mask when indoors in public settings, officials advised.
The "high" rating for community transmission of COVID in Pima County is the first time the area has been at that level since February 2022, according to CDC data. From the week ending Nov. 17 to the week ending Nov. 24 — Thanksgiving Day — the number of new COVID cases per day in the county increased 39.89%. That spike is before infections spread during holiday gatherings could be accounted for.
Flu cases in the county are seven times higher than the five-year average, while RSV cases having been increasing here since Oct. 1, to eight time higher than the five-year average.
Across Arizona, 98% of pediatric hospital beds are being used, meaning there is "limited access for children requiring inpatient hospital care," officials said. The number of hospital beds available for adults has also decreased in the past two weeks.
At this point during 2021-22 flu season last winter, there were just 300 lab-confirmed influenza cases in Arizona. Already this season, which began Oct. 1, there have been more than 7,900 cases — an increase of more than 2,500%, the Arizona Department of Health Services said.
There is no vaccine for RSV, but the Pima County Health Department strongly recommends individuals get a flu shot and be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccination, which means getting the new bivalent booster if it has been at least two months since their last COVID-19 shot. The flu and COVID shots can be given at the same time, officials said.
"Pima County has a robust response to the spike in respiratory viral illness," said Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of PCHD.
"The county continues to make free COVID-19 testing, vaccination and treatment available to everyone," she said. "Our health clinics offer no-cost flu shots. We coordinate with hospitals and health care providers to ensure the best possible level of care for our sickest community members. Through community outreach and mobile events, our commitment to providing equitable access to services across our diverse community is unwavering."
From the county:
Other healthy strategies for all three respiratory illnesses include:
- Staying home if you’re sick
- Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow (not your hands)
- Washing your hands often and/or use hand sanitizer
- Considering wearing a mask in public indoor settings, and around those most at risk
Across Arizona, more than 31,700 people have died from COVID-19, including 1,469 in the last six months — and 42 in the last week.
In Pima County, 4,060 residents have died from COVID infections, including 185 in the last six months and 2 in the last week.
More than 2,3337,000 people in the state have contracted the virus, with 303,000 people infected in Pima County.