California faces triple threat of respiratory illnesses – CalMatters

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CalMatters
California, explained
Forget “twindemic” — California may be in for a three-headed Cerberus of respiratory illnesses this winter as the flu, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19 collide.
Orange County on Monday declared a local public health emergency over RSV, a common cause of pneumonia in babies that’s contributed to a record number of pediatric hospitalizations and daily emergency room visits in the county.
San Diego health officials warned last week that “a sharp increase of flu and RSV cases” could have “a severe impact on people’s lives and the county’s medical resources this fall and winter.” At one point in October, about 1,000 of 2,600 students at a local high school were absent due to an outbreak of respiratory illnesses.
CalMatters health reporter Ana B. Ibarra takes a closer look at where California stands on the RSV, flu and COVID fronts:
1. RSV: The state’s surveillance shows that 15.3% of specimens tested in the third week of October came back positive for RSV, up from 9.8% during the same period last year.
2. Flu: Influenza surveillance data reported by the state starting the first week of October shows flu cases trending up earlier compared to the last five years. More flu earlier in the year usually means a more severe season. 
In the third week of October, 6.6% of flu tests came back positive. That’s a higher rate than the state recorded during the same week of the 2017-18 flu season, which peaked in late December with a 41% positivity rate.
During that flu season, some hospitals were so overwhelmed they had to treat patients in tents and hire temporary staff from out of state. About 61,000 people died from the flu nationwide, according to the CDC. The California Department of Public Health tallied 329 deaths, though that’s likely a severe undercount because providers were only required to report deaths for people under 65 and most flu-related deaths are among seniors.
So far this season, five residents have died of the flu, according to the state’s latest surveillance report published Friday. 
3. COVID: If the last two years are any indication, COVID infections tend to creep up soon after Halloween. 
Health experts said that while they certainly expect an uptick in COVID cases this winter, it’s less clear what hospital admissions will look like. 
California, anticipating a possible winter wave of infections and hospitalizations, plans to wait until Feb. 28, 2023 to end its COVID state of emergency. Hospitals, which have relied on provisions of the emergency order to better accommodate patients during surges, are warning that even this end date may be too soon because the flu can also affect capacity and flu season typically runs through May. 
The best thing people can do to keep their local hospitals from maxing out is to get immunized against the flu and get an updated COVID booster shot, Mourani and Mandel said. There is no vaccine for RSV.
So far, only about 11% of eligible Californians have received the recommended bivalent COVID booster meant to provide better protection against the omicron variant.
Time to vote: Find out everything you need to know about voting before California’s election ends Nov. 8 with the CalMatters Voter Guide, which includes information on races, candidates and propositions, as well as videos, interactives and campaign finance data.
Let’s dive into another trifecta of California health news nuggets:
How are education policies crafted in Sacramento shaping up on the ground for the state’s youngest and oldest students? Two CalMatters stories dig deeper:
Does it seem like the hours you worked and your paychecks aren’t adding up? Is your employer taking the tips you earned on the job? Is your boss denying you legally required meal or rest breaks? Are you wondering why your boss is paying you with personal checks, instead of using a payroll system with the usual paycheck deductions?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, your employer may be stealing your wages. As CalMatters’ California Divide team has reported in its ongoing series, “Unpaid Wages: A Waiting Game,” wage theft is common in California: Last year, more than 19,000 workers filed wage theft claims with the state totaling more than $338 million.
But what should you do if you find yourself in this situation? Speaking out about wage theft can feel intimidating and risky — so CalMatters’ Lil Kalish asked workers’ advocates and community organizers for best practices and advice and put together a California Workers’ Guide to Wage Theft, complete with a resource library of worker centers across the state. Check it out.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Federal officials are warning California and other states that use Colorado River water to sharply reduce diversions — or face unilateral action from the feds.
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