CINCINNATI — With multiple layers of COVID-19 protections in place, last year's flu season was practically non-existent, doctors say. As the 2021 flu season approaches, they're advocating to stick with measures like masking, social distancing and thorough hand-washing — especially with kids across the Tri-State returning to their classrooms.
"The goal here is to convince people to mask," said Dr. Joshua Schaffzin, director of infection, prevention and control at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "What we're going to start doing is talking about how to introduce masking during respiratory viral season, how to be more broadly masked, and I think we'll see that across the board and we'll be able to do more studies to see the effect of this."
The number of children who died from the flu in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic typically hovered around 125, national data show. Last year, there was one.
Schaffzin said the drastic drop is due to the health safety protocols that went into wide effect at the height of last year's coronavirus outbreaks.
But that was then, and this is now. With the COVID-19 vaccine widely available among people 12 and older, some areas are beginning to see masking and distancing rules relaxing. Some health officials have warned this could be problematic, especially as the more contagious delta variant continues to surge.
Schaffzin said the Tri-State should expect a heavier flu season in 2021, but by continuing to maintain those now-familiar safety measures, people can reduce the risk of a serious case or of contracting the disease at all.
It's also important, he said, to get a flu shot. Clinics across the Tri-State have begun offering those vaccinations, as they have in years past.
Doing these things, he said, will help avoid further disruptions to the region's journey toward a new normal.
"The goal here is to keep kids in school safely, to keep them from getting sick, to keep people at work, to keep kids out of the hospital unless they need to be here," he said.