Despite officials’ warnings and pleas, travel over Thanksgiving is expected to hit a pandemic peak.

The nation’s health experts on Sunday pleaded with Americans to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday and forgo any plans to travel or celebrate at large family gatherings, even as airports have recorded a significant rise in passengers.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist, and other health experts relayed a clear message on Sunday morning news shows: with coronavirus cases surging to record levels across the country, turning nearly every state into a hot zone of transmission, the risk of getting infected, whether in transit or in even small indoor gatherings, is high.

Up to 50 million people could be traveling on roads and through airports in the United States over Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA, the biggest travel surge since the pandemic began, despite strong cautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities. A video of a packed airport in Phoenix has been circulating widely on social media. As of Sunday, 47 states — all but Hawaii, Maine and Vermont — were considered high-risk zones for viral transmission, and nationwide hospitalizations were at a record 83,227.

“Please seriously consider decisions that you make,” Dr. Fauci said on the CBS show “Face the Nation.” Encountering large numbers of people in airports and on planes is particularly dangerous, he said. Although airlines have invested in air circulation and ventilation systems to minimize viral transmission, Dr. Fauci said, “sometimes when you get a crowded plane, or you’re in a crowded airport, you’re lining up, not everybody’s wearing masks — that puts yourself at risk.”

And gathering indoors, whether you travel or not, carries risk. “When you’re eating and drinking, obviously, you have to take your mask off,” Dr. Fauci said. “We know now that those are the kinds of situations that are leading to outbreaks.”

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said on Fox News on Sunday that because about half of infections are spread by people who don’t have any symptoms, “you can’t assume that you don’t have the virus, and you can’t assume that the people whose home you’re about to enter don’t have the virus, at this point in our pandemic.”

He recommended celebrating Thanksgiving only with the people you live with. People who choose to visit others’ homes should spend as much time as possible outdoors and “should be wearing masks indoors when they’re together, and only removing them when they’re eating.”

In Tulsa, Okla., Victory, a megachurch, canceled a “Friendsgiving” service on Sunday that had called on members to bring a friend after it prompted an outcry, instead opting to give away boxed meals, NBC News reported. The church did not respond to a request for comment regarding its planned “Thanksgiving Day Brunch,” which, according to its website, is set to be held on Thursday in the church’s cafeteria.

Dr. Fauci and others warned that Americans’ behavior over Thanksgiving would have critical implications for

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US opioid deaths rising amid coronavirus lockdowns, state health officials say

Opioid deaths are spiking in places across the U.S. as states remain locked down during the ongoing battle against the coronavirus, state and county health officials reported this month.

While national data isn’t available for most of 2020, several individual states are reporting an increase in opioid overdose deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic.

TRUMP ADDRESSES ADDICTION, DEPRESSION DUE TO COVID-19 LOCKDOWNS

Health officials and experts have cited increased isolation and job loss due to statewide shutdowns as possible factors for the surge in drug-related deaths.

“The pandemic has really increased risk factors for substance abuse disorder,” Rebecca Shultz, director of community health at the Onondaga County Health Department, told Syracuse.com.

Opioid deaths in Onondaga County, N.Y., jumped to 86 in the first six months of 2020, according to the county health department. This number was nearly double the reported 44 fatalities in the first half of 2019, the outlet reported, citing the county medical examiner’s office.

Oregon saw a 70% increase in opioid overdose deaths in April and May 2020 compared to the same time last year, the Oregon Health Authority said.

While the department called the rise an “alarming spike,” it also said it was “premature to say how much of the spike in overdose deaths is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“However, the realization that we will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time, and other stressors related to jobs, school, and social isolation, may increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and that can lead to a harmful level of alcohol or other drug use,” said Tom Jeanne, deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist.

NJ GOVERNOR WHO IS AGGRESSIVELY PUSHING FOR LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA STEPS UP EFFORTS TO BATTLE OPIOID ADDICTION

In Maine, which saw 258 overdose deaths from January through June, there was a 27% increase over the second half of 2019. Officials cited increased isolation as a partial factor for the rise.

“It is clear from the data that the increase in deaths from the opioid epidemic can be partially attributed to the increased isolation of living through the pandemic,” Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a report on the state’s drug deaths for the second quarter.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told FOX40 Sacramento that “in some of our counties, there are more deaths from overdoses than there are from COVID-19.”

TUCKER SLAMS CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWNS AS ANOTHER BLOW TO ‘THE WRONG PEOPLE’ IN RURAL AMERICA

Becerra said that in San Diego there was a 50% increase in overdose deaths in July and August compared to the months leading to the pandemic. He said “the effects of these plagues are exacerbating” due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, preliminary overdose death counts were up in Connecticut more than 19% through the end of July, compared with the same period last year. They were up 9% in Washington through the end of August, 28% in Colorado, and 30% in Kentucky during that same time.

After a one-year drop in 2018, U.S. opioid overdose deaths increased again in

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Officials Warn of Cyberattacks on Hospitals as Virus Cases Spike

Hundreds of American hospitals are being targeted in cyberattacks by the same Russian hackers who American officials and researchers fear could sow mayhem around next week’s election.

The attacks on American hospitals, clinics and medical complexes are intended to take those facilities offline and hold their data hostage in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransom payments, just as coronavirus cases spike across the United States.

“We expect panic,” one hacker involved in the attacks said in Russian during a private exchange on Monday that was captured by Hold Security, a security company that tracks online criminals.

Some hospitals in New York State and on the West Coast reported cyberattacks in recent days, though it was not clear whether they were part of the attacks, and hospital officials emphasized that critical patient care was not affected.

The Russian hackers, believed to be based in Moscow and St. Petersburg, have been trading a list of more than 400 hospitals they plan to target, according to Alex Holden, the founder of Hold Security, who shared the information with the F.B.I. Mr. Holden said the hackers claimed to have already infected more than 30 of them.

On Wednesday, three government agencies — the F.B.I., the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — warned hospital administrators and security researchers about a “credible threat” of cyberattacks to American hospitals, according to a security executive who listened to the briefing.

Officials and researchers did not name the affected hospitals, but Sonoma Valley Hospital in California said it was still trying to restore its computer systems after an intrusion last week. St. Lawrence Health System in New York confirmed that two of its hospitals, Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur, were hit by ransomware attacks Tuesday morning that caused them to shut down computer systems and divert ambulances. Sky Lakes Medical Center in Oregon was also crippled by a ransomware attack Tuesday that froze electronic medical records and delayed surgeries, a hospital representative said.

Employees at that hospital, in Klamath Falls, Ore., were told, “If it’s a P.C., shut it down,” said Thomas Hottman, the public information officer at Sky Lakes.

It was unclear whether those attacks were related to the hacking campaign underway. But the latest breaches were linked to the same Russian hackers who held Universal Health Services, a giant network of more than 400 hospitals, hostage with ransomware last month in what was then considered the largest medical cyberattack of its kind.

The hackers are also the same group behind TrickBot, a vast conduit for ransomware attacks that government hackers and technology executives have targeted in two takedowns over the past month.

In late September, United States Cyber Command started hacking into TrickBot’s infrastructure in an effort to disable it before the election. Microsoft also started taking down TrickBot servers via federal court orders over the past month. The goal of both efforts, officials and executives said, was to pre-empt ransomware attacks on the election that could disrupt voting

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Anchorage officials say city on ‘dangerous path’

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials in Anchorage, Alaska, say the city is on a “dangerous path” as coronavirus cases rise and are urging people to avoid gatherings and follow orders to wear masks in public.

Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson says she has been meeting with business leaders, health officials and others to make decisions that protect health but also impose minimal restrictions so businesses can stay open.

The mayor says that “none of us wants another hunker-down” order.

The city’s health director says that after months of dealing with the pandemic, some people may have let down their guard. She says people should stay home except to get food, exercise outside or go to work. She says it is important to wear masks and social distance in public and to avoid contact with those at higher risk for severe illness.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— US plans to buy initial antibody doses from Eli Lilly

— Task force member Giroir: Cases, hospitalizations, deaths up in US – not just testing

— President Emmanuel Macron announces second national lockdown in France starting Friday. German officials agreed four-week partial lockdown.

— Belgium and Czech Republic top Europe’s highest number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 citizens, ahead of hotbeds France and Spain.

— Love blossoms amid pandemic for two TikTok creators in Los Angeles, using goofy dance videos, heartfelt vlogs and affirmations.

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— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota health officials are warning against traditional Halloween festivities amid the recent rise in coronavirus cases statewide.

Officials say that instead of traditional trick-or-treating and indoor haunted houses, people should look to lower risk activities like carving pumpkins and decorating homes or holding virtual gatherings.

he state’s infectious diseases director said Wednesday that warmer weather this weekend may encourage outdoor gatherings, but cautioned against disregarding health guidelines with virus infections rising steadily.

Officials reported 1,916 new coronavirus cases and 19 new COVID-19 deaths. Daily case counts statewide have exceeded 2,000 three times in the past two weeks, and the state has reported more than 1,000 new daily cases for the last 21 days.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Medical professionals in Iowa are expressing concerns that a surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations could overwhelm medical facilities if no action is taken to slow the virus’ spread.

Hospitals had 596 coronavirus patients Wednesday, the highest number so far for the state. The 113 patients admitted in the past 24 hours also was the most since the virus surfaced in Iowa last March.

Doctors and hospital officials say they are talking about how to transfer COVID-19 patients between hospitals and enacting surge plans that could turn non-hospital facilities into spots to handle any overflow.

One hospital CEO said that “what we know is if the last four weeks are indicative of what happens over the next four weeks, we will have the system overwhelmed.”

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WELLINGTON, New

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The Health 202: Hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses will be ready in early 2021, officials say

“We are on the brink of seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, the initiative created by the administration to get a safe vaccine approved and distributed as quickly as possible.

The administration is working on two parallel tracks to get a vaccine approved and ready to distribute.

Perna said he, along with Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui, recently visited the Tennessee offices of McKesson, the major vaccine distributor that has contracted with the government to head up distribution of eventual coronavirus vaccines.

“At the end of the day I chose [McKesson] because they know how to do it,” Perna said.

Once the Food and Drug Administration approves a coronavirus vaccine for emergency use — expected to happen in late November or early December if trials continue going well — McKesson will partner with FedEx and UPS, along with a number of pharmacies and grocery stores including Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger, to get the doses shipped around the country, Perna said.

The Defense Department is closely involved in the effort, prompting concerns that an agency not accustomed to delivering vaccines might be charged with the critical task. Perna insisted, however, that the department is helping with logistics and program support — not distribution.

“There will not be this vision some people have of army trucks driving through the street delivering vaccine,” he told listeners on the online forum. “This is not feasible nor the proper way to do this.”

States also have a role to play. They’ve all submitted to the federal government plans for distributing a vaccine, with varying standards for who should get a vaccine first and how quickly the process should move.

New Jersey, for example, wants to administer the vaccine 70 percent of non-pregnant adults within six months. Nebraska laid out two initial phases of vaccine distribution in which the vaccine first goes to medical staff and later to the elderly and people with underlying conditions.

The vaccine news couldn’t come at a more critical time as cases of the novel coronavirus are surging across the country – and public health officials warn things could deteriorate further over the winter. Trump, however, continues to insist the country is “rounding the corner” in the disease as the election approaches next Tuesday, and his chief of staff said this weekend that the virus could only be controlled through a vaccine and therapeutics.

The process is moving with unprecedented speed, but there are plenty of challenges.

For one thing, vaccines require cold storage. Medical professionals distributing a vaccine will also need equipment including needles, syringes, alcohol, pads, bandages and masks.

And government officials say it’s critical to track who is getting the vaccine and where. Five of the six vaccines being developed as part of Warp Speed — excluding the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson — require two doses. People who receive a first dose will need to be given the same vaccine in their second

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As Dodgers and Lakers win, coronavirus spreads at celebrations, alarming health officials

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 11: Los Angeles Lakers fans gather near the Staples Center to celebrate the Lakers 106 - 93 game 6 over the Miami Heat on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Lakers fans gather near Staples Center in downtown L.A. to celebrate the Lakers NBA Finals win over the Miami Heat. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California counties are reopening their economies at a slower pace than other parts of the state, and officials blame celebrations. Lakers and Dodgers viewing parties and public events are keeping coronavirus infections high enough to hold the region back, officials warn.

California has avoided the substantial spike in coronavirus cases seen across the country this fall, but some of the state’s most populated counties — Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino — remain in the most restrictive reopening tier.

That means indoor dining rooms are shut, as are indoor operations of gyms and houses of worship. San Diego County, now in the red tier, is teetering on backsliding into the most restrictive category.

Public health officials have identified gatherings as a significant source of virus transmission in Southern California, where young adults are driving the spread of the highly contagious disease.

There are also troubling signs of a potential increase in coronavirus cases. Even after accounting for a backlog, Los Angeles County has gone from about 940 daily new cases at the beginning of October to nearly 1,200 new cases each day as of last week, based on the date of a positive test or the first onset of symptoms, said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health.

Officials are worried that the post-season success of the Lakers and the Dodgers may be playing a role in the increased coronavirus cases.

“Gatherings in large crowds to watch games indoors, people aren’t wearing their face coverings, people are yelling a lot — that’s just not sensible,” Ferrer said.

Even congregating at outdoor restaurants, while shouting and cheering and hugging strangers without wearing masks, makes it “so easy to spread this virus,” she said.

About 55% of people who knew of a possible exposure to the virus also attended a gathering where two or more people were sick, the county said, based on interviews with the newly infected or people who were in contact with them over the last three weeks.

Coronavirus cases, dated by the date of a positive test or symptom onset, have been rising in recent weeks in L.A. County.
New coronavirus cases, dated by the date of a positive coronavirus test or onset of symptoms, have been rising in recent weeks in Los Angeles County. (Los Angeles County Department of Public Health)

Other parts of Southern California are seeing similar trends.

“We’re seeing more spread at family and friend gatherings,” said Corwin Porter, public health director for San Bernardino County. “It seems to be more prominent in our younger populations — our under-40 crowd, for the most part.”

Among newly infected people who said they attended some kind of large gathering in the previous month in San Bernardino County, 61% attended gatherings of friends or family in the previous month, according to data from the second full week of October.

In Riverside County, public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser expressed dismay about a crowd of more than 1,000

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Danvers Officials Brace For Coronavirus Surge Impact

DANVERS, MA — Danvers officials warned of potential increased business restrictions and a switch to fully remote learning in Danvers Public Schools amid a recent rise in coronavirus rates.

Town Manager Steve Bartha and Superintendent of Schools Lisa Dana issued a joint statement on Monday alerting residents that “this broad trajectory will likely continue, which would shift Danvers to the high-risk category in the coming weeks.”

“While the virus hit the area’s long-term care facilities most hard in the spring, the scenario we now face is the disease among the community-at-large,” the statement said.

Danvers shifted from a “green” low-risk community to a “yellow” moderate-risk community in the most recent state reports.

If Danvers is designated a “high-risk community” — according to state metrics of having more than 8.0 cases per 100,000 people — for two weeks in a row Danvers Public Schools will switch to fully remote learning, per the town’s reopening guidelines. Danvers went from 3.3 cases to 6.5 cases per 100,000 over the past two weeks.

“Town leaders agree that two weeks in the high-risk category is an appropriate benchmark for our schools and for other community-related activities,” Bartha and Dana said.

If the town remains in the high-risk category for three weeks, businesses would revert back to step 1 of phase 3 of the state’s reopening guidelines — which would force some businesses such as laser tag and trampoline parks to close, restore the six-person maximum per table at restaurants and reduce capacity at other businesses, such as gyms.

“Actions we may take would likely include curtailing in-person meetings of all boards and committees, as well as recreational programming and youth athletics,” the statement said. “While subject to change, Town Hall will remain open to the public until doing so is deemed unsafe.”

Officials that while they are hopeful mitigation efforts will “avoid the sweeping closures we experienced in the spring” residents should be prepared for “inconveniences” likely to come.

Residents are asked to get a flu vaccination, wear a face mask in public, avoid crowds and large groups, limit social gatherings and at the first sign of any symptoms get tested and then stay home until finding out the results.

“With Halloween coming up, we ask that you and your households practice common sense,” officials said. “At a minimum, please follow the CDC and Mass DPH guidance to ensure that the evening is safe, and remember that the safest way to celebrate the holiday is at home with your family.”

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This article originally appeared on the Danvers Patch

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Michigan Officials After Coronavirus Spike: ‘Take This Seriously’

MICHIGAN — Michigan reported 3,338 new cases of the coronavirus Saturday, its largest single-day increase in cases ever.

The spike is the latest addition in what has been a trend in growing cases, one that has state officials urging residents to wear masks, avoid large gatherings and to “take this seriously.”

“The data shows we are continuing to see alarming increases in the incidence of COVID-19 infections in Michigan,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “It is now more important than ever that people take this seriously. Wear a mask every time you are going to be around someone outside of your own household. Avoid large gatherings and maintain a safe distance from others. If rates continue like this, we risk overwhelming our hospitals and having many more Michiganders die.”

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As of Saturday, more than 158,000 people in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus, while over 7,100 COVID-19 deaths have been reported as well.

More than 96 percent of the test results reported Saturday originated from specimens that were collected from individuals in the past five days, the state said in a statement.

Last week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference to tell residents that they should wear masks and take precautions as cases continue to increase around the state.

Preventing the spread of the virus is made easier by wearing a mask and social distancing, Whitmer said. Those guidelines were once requirements included in executive orders issued by the Whitmer administration, but those orders were voided when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on party lines that the law Whitmer cited in making the orders was unconstitutional.

Read More: Whitmer Asks Michiganders To Wear Masks As Coronavirus Cases Rise

Since that time, Whitmer said, the state has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“We are now at our peak when it comes to daily new cases. This peak is higher than what we saw in April,” she said.

Information provided by the governor’s staff shows that the number of new cases has been joined by an increase in new hospitalizations, something she warned could lead to issues overwhelming the state’s healthcare system.

“Our numbers are climbing,” Whitmer said. “We need to take this seriously.”

This article originally appeared on the Detroit Patch

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Health officials ramp up flu shot efforts, including free vaccines at Audubon Zoo on Oct. 26 | The Latest | Gambit Weekly

Health officials at the Louisiana Department of Health and the City of New Orleans are asking Louisianans to roll up their shirt sleeves and get flu shots as they ramp up efforts to distribute these essential vaccines.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for which there is still no vaccine or cure, health officials say it’s more important than ever to get the shot, especially because COVID-19 and the flu sometimes have similar symptoms and both can be fatal. They have for months warned of a “twin-demic” this fall and are concerned about overwhelmed hospitals, as the flu can also lead to lengthy stays and require medical care around the clock.

Dr. Gina Lagarde, the LDH’s regional medical director for the Northshore, said the health department will be conducting “mass vaccination exercises in each of the state’s regions” over the next several weeks, in partnerships with local pharmacies. The department will be making an extra effort to reach out to historically under-vaccinated populations, including low-income, rural and minority communities that frequently lack access to health care.

On Oct. 26, free vaccines will be available at the Audubon Zoo from 1 to 6 p.m., in partnership with New Orleans Health Department, New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Audubon Zoo. 

 “It is critical,” Lagarde told Gambit. “We worry about the surge to our emergency rooms. With the cold and flu season, we know the impact on our emergency rooms and in our hospitals. We need to get as many people as vaccinated as possible.”

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the LDH have long recommended a yearly flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age and note that it’s especially crucial for people at higher risk of serious complications, including babies and young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions and citizens aged 65 years and older.

Most seasonal flu activity occurs between October and May, peaking between December and February. The LDH notes that the flu shot will not prevent COVID-19, but it will reduce the burden of the flu illness, hospitalizations and deaths. Though the flu is less fatal than COVID-19, both are highly contagious illnesses that can impact long-term health and require lengthy recovery periods.

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South Korean officials find no direct link between flu vaccine and recent deaths

The country’s government has rolled out a flu vaccine campaign, concerned about the potential simultaneous spread of coronavirus and influenza.

At least 36 people have died after taking flu vaccinations since last Friday, including a 17-year-old. The average age of those who died was 74, according to the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

As of Friday, more than 14 million people had gotten the flu vaccine, of which 9.4 million were children, elderly, and pregnant women, according to the KDCA.

Ki Moran, a professor at South Korea’s National Cancer Centre, said the flu vaccine is known to cause serious side effects in one out of 10 million people.

In 2019, 227,000 people over the age of 65 died in South Korea, she added. That’s an average of 621 deaths a day, to put the recent figures into perspective.

The KDCA decided on Friday not to suspend the flu vaccinations. The vaccination expert committee will hold a meeting Saturday morning to review additional data, according to a KDCA statement.

Rare side effects

This might be your most important flu shot ever

The KDCA’s Friday meeting came after rising scrutiny from experts and politicians.

On Friday, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for a thorough investigation into the deaths, citing public anxiety, according to a press release by the Health Ministry. He did not call for a halt to the vaccination campaign.

The Korean Medical Association, a coalition of 130,000 doctors, has urged the government to suspend the vaccination program for a week until they determined the cause of the deaths.

In a statement, the Korean Vaccine Society emphasized the importance of the flu vaccine, especially “for children, the elderly, and patients with chronic diseases and low immune system.” The organization cited concerns about the possible spread of flu during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts globally are preparing for flu season in the middle of the pandemic. “This is a critical year for us to try to take flu as much off the table as we can,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with the AMA’s JAMA Network.

One reason is to decrease the strain on public health services and hospitals, which are bracing for a winter wave. Experts say it possible to get Covid-19 and the flu simultaneously — and, because flu symptoms look so similar to that of Covid-19, it will be impossible to rule out a coronavirus diagnosis without a test. That means a case of the flu can cause substantial disruption to work and school.

In South Korea, Covid-19 has infected 25,775 people and killed 457, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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