Editorial: Continued caution will reduce risk to you, others from COVID, flu and RSV

Palm Beach Fire Rescue workers register resident Jan. 6 who came to Phipps Ocean Park to receive COVID-19 rapid antigen testing.
Palm Beach Fire Rescue workers register resident Jan. 6 who came to Phipps Ocean Park to receive COVID-19 rapid antigen testing.

Season is back in full swing.

After two years of scuttled plans because of the pandemic, charity events, meetings and holiday parties — or in Palm Beach's parlance, heavily attended galas and balls — are back in full force. And it's no wonder. We're all tired of being physically and socially isolated.

It feels great to greet friends or attend an event without all the restrictions. Unfortunately, COVID has not gone away and, with the flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) rearing their ugly heads this year, we may want to keep an eye on this "tripledemic."

No matter how much we want to just be done with all this, the health concerns are real.

For those who think the flu is not a big deal, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday that nearly 20,000 people in the United States were admitted to the hospital for flu last week, almost double the number of admissions from the week before. The CDC estimates that out of at least 8.7 million illnesses, there have been 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from influenza this season, according to CNN.

Thankfully, there are vaccines for COVID and the flu, but there is not one yet for RSV. Though RSV mainly infects children and adult cases are usually not severe, people with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to its worst effects.

That fact that we are now in the endemic stages of COVID instead of a pandemic proves the effectiveness of vaccines, but concern remains, especially for those with vulnerable health.

More elderly residents ages 65 and older have died of COVID in Florida than in any other state since vaccines became widely available to adults in April 2021, a recent Palm Beach Post analysis shows. More than nine in 10 COVID deaths in Florida occur among those 65 and older, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

In addition, Florida has the fourth lowest rate in the country for adults getting the updated COVID-19 booster shot, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Nov. 16, that number stood at 20% compared to 30% for the overall U.S. population, according to the University of South Florida.

We cannot be nonchalant about these numbers. Palm Beach's population skews older than most towns, so we need to continue to do our part to keep everyone healthy.

The techniques we used to combat COVID before vaccines were introduced — proper handwashing; covering our mouths when we cough; sneezing into a tissue (or your elbow if no tissue is available), and social distancing — can still help to reduce transmission of other communicable diseases.

Though masks are not commonplace anymore, it still would be considerate to wear one  to help protect those who with compromised immune systems or other vulnerabilities.

And more importantly, get your COVID boosters and flu shots.

Let's continue to help each other stay healthy while enjoying the season responsibly

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Editorial: COVID now endemic, but risk remains from it, other respiratory illnesses