“Tripledemic”: The Return of COVID-19?

COVID-19, RSV, and flu cases are surging at alarming rates and are projected to increase rapidly this upcoming winter, and many professionals worry as the COVID pandemic is beginning to come to a close.

COVID-19 has finally come to an end, and people across the globe are beginning to unmask for the first time in several years. Seeing your relatives and friends is normalized again, and society is finally returning to its natural order.

However, a threat that has proved worrisome to doctors across the world has finally been realized: a “tripledemic.” This triple-pandemic, or “tripledemic,” as many colloquially refer to it, of COVID-19, influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), has been a massive topic of discussion across the United States as flu and RSV cases surge across the nation.

This tripledemic is especially unusual as the winter has barely started, yet the number of cases to the precedent for these surging cases are seemingly off balance.

A young girl receiving a Covid test at Esperanza Health Center in Chicago in September. (Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times)

“I feel like these cases are definitely going to spike because winter is coming up, which is a big season change and that has meant relatively bad things for these types of viruses in the past, but I think it won’t be too bad,” said sophomore James Zhou.

The nation is just recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications, so this type of out

break has had its fair share of hysteria linked to its spread. While COVID cases are not rising at the moment, they are projected to have a massive spike this upcoming winter. In conjunction with the surge of flu and RSV cases that have brought people of all ages to hospitals to fill their beds, doctors and hospitals have been on edge as they stock up on supplies and increase their patient capacity for their inevitable increase in demand.

RSV cases are most alarming, as it has been affecting the elderly as well as infants. Although it is a common virus, this unusual and unprecedented surge in cases and hospitalizations is more than enough cause for alarm. As for the flu cases, the United States is seeing the highest number of hospitalizations for the flu at this time of year in over a decade, according to NBC.

Teachers at Great Neck North High School have their reservations about this RSV surge, such as Spanish teacher Caitlin Healy.

“I think that the only people that are aware of it are people with young children since they know that it can directly affect their lives and their children. I have definitely seen people and children directly affected by the surge in cases of RSV so far, so I’d say it’s an issue,” said Healy. 

These epidemics compounded into one tripledemic are also creating a massive understaffing problem for hospitals that have been exacerbated by the precedent of essential workers leaving healthcare during the COVID pandemic. Burnout, leading to understaffing, is creating a cycle of increasing cases and hospitalizations, which will only worsen as winter approaches. 

An expert has raised the alarm over RSV, which he said is a big threat to children’s health. (Credit: Getty/Express)

Even so, the surge of cases of these common viruses, such as RSV and the flu, may lead to elderly people becoming more susceptible to the effects of COVID, which has been less widespread due to the effect vaccination efforts that have been instituted and encouraged thus far into the pandemic’s closure.

Some are even predicting that while cases will surge, people will stay indifferent to these mass outbreaks due to the desensitization that the COVID-19 pandemic has created towards these types of epidemics.

“I don’t think anyone will care in Great Neck,” explained freshman Aiden Jin, “Everyone stopped wearing masks ages ago…I think it’ll unfold like any other flu season, people will get sick and no one will really notice.”

However, many experts say that the immunity of the U.S. population that was diminished by this mask-wearing and isolation from the COVID pandemic may also be contributing to the massive surges in these common viruses, as people have finally been exposed to them in an open environment, unlike during the COVID pandemic, when the immunity of people were superficially protected by external means. 

According to the CDC, this tripledemic is being combated by an influx of flu shots and RSV vaccinations, the latter of which has been newly developed to fight the uptick in cases in infants and older individuals.

Many people have a rather analytical outlook on this news and have decided to stay optimistic in the coming months based on the precedents of these epidemics and the rarity of these common viruses’ massive surges.

Infants are being significantly impacted by this tripledemic. (Credit: San Francisco Chronicle)

“Well, the rise in COVID-19 infections is seasonal…I think there shouldn’t be fear over the winter about contracting these illnesses…I believe there will be no difference in Great Neck specifically,” said sophomore Alex Amir.

Great Neck may be unfazed by this tripledemic for now, but professionals are nervous for what is to come for this tripledemic this winter. The United States may not revert to another lockdown, but the number of cases will only continue to increase, and with COVID soon in the mix, it cannot truly be said what will happen.