Nation Avoided Holiday Tripledemic, but COVID Still Threatens

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It appears the U.S. avoided the much-feared holiday “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses. Heading into December, two viruses from the triple threat — influenza and respiratory syncytial virus — were on steep upward trends that had health officials and medical providers sounding alarms.

Data now shows that flu and RSV appear to have peaked prior to the holidays.

“In a couple of areas we are seeing activity increase or plateau, but in most areas, it’s been declining,” Shikha Garg, MD, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, told NPR.

RSV case numbers have dropped steadily since topping charts in mid-November. The virus, which is particularly dangerous for infants and young children, is still circulating at higher levels compared to recent years, CDC data shows.

Flu activity has declined steadily since the beginning of December, when 25% of flu tests were positive for the virus and nearly 26,000 people were being hospitalized weekly. The most recent flu data shows 15% of tests administered are positive for flu, and hospitalizations are down to 19,000 per week. 

Flu activity remains strong, with 11 states pus New York City still landing in the CDC’s highest reporting category for the number of people visiting outpatient clinics due to a fever plus a cough or sore throat. The states are California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas.

The remaining member of the tripledemic club is COVID-19, and its numbers are trending upward. Hospitalizations have reached a daily average of 47,417, which is the highest since last March,  The New York Times  reported. Test positivity is at 16%, which is an increase of 21% over the past two weeks.

Federal officials report that levels of coronavirus in wastewater, which helps show how widespread the virus is, have tripled or quadrupled, NPR reported.

“We’re seeing sustained increases of COVID infections across the nation,” Ashish Jha, MD, the White House’s top COVID-19 official, told NPR. “So COVID is the thing that concerns us most as we look at the days and weeks ahead.”


NPR: “The RSV surge has peaked, and the flu is receding — but COVID rates are up again.”

The New York Times: “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count Updated Jan. 8, 2023.”

CDC: “Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report for Week 52,” “RSV-NET Interactive Dashboard.”

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