Whatcom County health officials issued a recommendation on Friday asking people to wear masks indoors to reduce the risk of spreading a triple threat of respiratory illnesses.
Cases of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 are keeping staff at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center busy, hospital spokesperson Bev Mayhew said Friday morning.
“We are busy, but we are managing,” Mayhew said. “Our emergency department is very busy and has been very busy all fall.”
The hospital admitted 43 patients last week who were diagnosed with influenza.
“Flu is certainly hitting our community quite hard,” Mayhew said, “and we are seeing RSV hitting the pediatric population as well as adults.”
COVID-19 case levels have risen in Whatcom County over the past several weeks, from 44.7 per 100,000 residents during the week ending Oct. 15 to 76.3 per 100,000 as of Nov. 28 — the most recent date shown on the county’s COVID-19 dashboard.
“New COVID-19 variants are taking hold and immunity from past vaccination is waning for many people who have not yet received an updated booster shot,” a Whatcom County Health Department news release stated.
The Health Department recommends people wear a “high-quality, well-fitting mask” when indoors and stay home when sick. People should also get the flu vaccine.
“We expect the flu to circulate for months,” the news release said.
Bellingham Public Schools spokesperson Dana Smith said masks are available at the schools for anyone who would like to wear one.
“We encourage everyone to follow public health guidelines, with mask-wearing one of many effective mitigation strategies to stay more healthy this winter,” Smith said.