Illustration of red masks floating in ocean waves.
Illustration: PGN

Leer en español

What you need to know

  • We are facing a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu, and RSV.
  • Everyone 6 months and older who is eligible should get their flu shot and Omicron vaccine.
  • It’s time to wear high-quality, well-fitting masks in public again.

Thanksgiving gatherings undeniably caused a spike in COVID-19 spread: Cases jumped more than 50 percent in the weeks after, and hospitalizations and deaths also rose substantially over that period. Whether the current surge will end after the holidays or turn into a longer wave is unclear. Regardless, it’s time to use additional layers of protection.

How severe is the current COVID-19 surge?

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all rising significantly nationwide, with hospitalization rates seeing the sharpest spike among people 70 and older. Nearly half of U.S. counties are now at the “medium” or “high” COVID-19 community level, a CDC measurement of community transmission. 

Compared to previous waves, the current surge is relatively mild so far. But it’s important to remember that there is a severe underreporting of cases due to at-home testing and the closure of testing centers across the country. 

Should I be concerned?

COVID-19 is unfortunately not the only respiratory virus we need to be worried about this winter. Flu and RSV, both highly contagious respiratory viruses, have reappeared at full strength after two years of nearly nonexistent seasons. The U.S. is now facing a “tripledemic,” where COVID-19, flu, and RSV are in circulation at the same time.

Over the past few months, flu and RSV have been filling hospitals and impacting kids particularly hard. Flu activity continues to be “very high” in 28 states and has resulted in at least 21 pediatric deaths so far this season. RSV cases remain high but are in decline across all regions. The recent uptick in COVID-19 numbers further threatens hospital systems and the health and safety of vulnerable individuals, including older adults, immunocompromised people, and young kids.

How can I make sure my family and I are protected?

The best way to stay safe this winter is to use as many layers of protection as possible. Vaccines and boosters are crucial. While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, they do provide valuable protection against infection and especially against severe disease. Everyone who is eligible should get their flu shot and Omicron vaccine, both of which are now available for kids as young as 6 months old. It is safe to get a flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

High-quality, well-fitting masks are also key, as they can significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission in schools and at the community level. Last week, the CDC director encouraged people to wear “high-quality, well-fitting masks” to protect against respiratory illnesses this holiday season. New York City and Los Angeles County have also reissued their indoor masking recommendations.

Finally, washing your hands and using ventilation and filtration tools at social gatherings will decrease your chance of getting infected and limit transmission, especially during the holiday season.