MUSC sees uptick in COVID hospitalizations, doctors predict early flu season

Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 5:50 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2023 at 7:26 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the Medical University of South Carolina are seeing a rise in hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

COVID hospitalizations in the Tri-County are up 43%, according to the hospital.

For three years in a row, COVID has followed a seasonal pattern, so getting a wave or spike like this in mid to late summer is expected, MUSC doctors say.

Doctors there say they’re also seeing more emergency room visits for the illness, but COVID isn’t their only concern, as these experts are anticipating a rough flu season is on the way.

They believe it’s going to be highly unpleasant in the early fall, and that there are a couple of reasons for it.

One is they say because people spent a few years masked up, they didn’t get the flu, but now that’s gone, and they’re seeing patients coming in with a hacking cough and no mask on.

Doctors also say that the Southern Hemisphere is having a bad flu season, and what happens there usually ends up being the case in the Northern Hemisphere as well.

Whether it’s the flu or COVID, Dr. Micheal Sweat who leads MUSC’s COVID-19 Tracking Team, says it’s time where those who are vulnerable need to start being cautious.

“Those who are immunocompromised or particularly the elderly, it’s probably a good time to start practicing some mitigation for those people,” Sweat said. “We’re not in the same situation we’ve been in the past, but these are signals that are kicking off. I think the weeks ahead will tell us a lot.”

He says the situation is not critical at this point, but that there’s a lot of suggestions that a new COVID variant, BA.2.86, is spreading rapidly and something public health officials are monitoring closely.

“Worst case scenario, we end up with another large wave like we got with Omicron, we just don’t know,” he said. “So, it would be smart for people to pay attention to the news, and if we start to see this variant really kick off, pay attention and follow public health guidelines and whatnot.”

With students back in the classroom, germs can spread quickly, and Dorchester School District Two says infection control measures already in place to mitigate a potential outbreak of COVID or flu.

“We have custodial teams on hand that are cleaning classrooms and disinfecting surfaces on a regular schedule so that we can make sure that our buildings are clean, and our students are only in school if they are feeling well enough to be there,” Director of Nursing and Health Services for DD2 Amanda Santamaria said.

Santamaria explains that as a school district, when it comes to illness, they must remain flexible.

“Monitor disease trends as they start, monitor our student absenteeism, ensure that our protocols are in place,” she said. “Ultimately, we want students to be in school. We want them to be happy and healthy.”

She says every year Dorchester School District Two partners with DHEC to give students opportunities to get the flu vaccine at school, with a parent’s consent.

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