Health officials are worried as millions prepare to travel for the holiday season and gather with loved ones amid a “tripledemic” of infections hitting Southern California.
The “tripledemic” is what health experts describe as a trio of COVID-19, influenza and RSV infections spiking concurrently. Holiday gatherings will only exacerbate illnesses and hospitalizations across the nation, officials say.
An estimated 200,000 people could pass through Los Angeles International Airport every day beginning Friday, Dec. 16 through Jan. 3, 2023 for holiday travel.
As infections continue surging, available hospital beds across Los Angeles County have hit an all-time low according to health officials.
“It’s the flu, COVID and the RSV,” Dr. Diana Lev, an attending physician at Dignity Health Northridge explains to KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade. “And RSV has been historically a childhood disease and now it’s hitting adults here.”
Lev says some people are being infected with more than one virus at the same time.
“They haven’t been sick for a few years and suddenly they come in with one, two or three of these viruses altogether,” confirmed Lev.
This trio of illnesses is causing the most strain on local healthcare systems.
“They’re coming here, they’re scared, they’re worried, they hear about it in the news and people seem to get really sick so they’re just flooding in here,” said Gilbert Nickles, Assistant Nurse Manage at MLK Community Hospital in Willowbrook.
With a constant influx of patients, MLK hospital workers say they’ve set up triage tents outside to accommodate the overflow.
The low hospital bed capacity is partly due to hospitals returning to normal operations, officials explain. COVID-related surge capacity beds introduced during the pandemic have mostly been removed this year.
County health officials are most concerned over the increase in death rates due to COVID-19.
“It’s distressing to see that number slightly higher at this point in the winter season than it was last year,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Health officials continue encouraging people to take precautions this holiday season including wearing face coverings, receiving booster shots, and holding gatherings outdoors whenever possible.
In anticipation of a holiday COVID spike, the U.S. government is offering four free COVID-19 testing kits per household to be ordered online and delivered through the USPS.