Coronavirus Call-in: Ramp down of flu season will ease hospital burden

Mar 31, 2020, 3:41 PM | Updated: 3:42 pm
The flu in Utah hospital...
(Photo Credit: David Goldman, Associated Press)
(Photo Credit: David Goldman, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — COVID-19 good news is here: the flu is finally disappearing, which will ease the burden on hospital emergency rooms, according to Dr. Andrew Pavia, Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Primary Children’s Hospital, who along with Nate McDonald, of the communications team for the Utah Coronavirus Task Force, joined KSL’s Jeff Caplan to answer your questions about how the state is working to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The end of flu season means fewer influenza patients showing up at hospital emergency rooms, Pavia said. As a result, more resources are available to patients needing help with other ailments, including coronavirus.

Other than the impact of flu season on hospitals, here are the questions you asked our experts.

Should nursing mothers stop if they test positive for coronavirus?

“The real issue is not the breast milk because we know there’s no virus in breast milk, and that’s providing a lot of benefits to the baby. The problem is the face-to-face time that a nursing mother spends with her child,” said Pavia.

Pavia said if mom is going to continue nursing, she should wear a mask and wash her hands before she picks up the baby but stay away from the baby the rest of the time.

“The other option is to pump and have someone else provides the baby with breast milk. That way, baby gets all the advantage of the breastfeeding, except for snuggling with her mom,” the doctor said.

What happens to renters who can’t pay?

“I think it’s important for landlords to have discussions with the renters right now to determine what can be or not be options,” said McDonald.

He said guidance has not yet been given to local, state or the federal government about rental policies for landlords and their tenants.

McDonald recommended people with concerns about renting, unemployment insurance, paying utilities or even food assistance go to jobs.utah.gov.

I have a co-worker who has tested positive, does that mean I should get tested or quarantine?

“One of the things you need to understand about testing is when you don’t have symptoms, testing isn’t going to tell you very much,” Pavia said.

He said if you don’t work within 3 to 6 feet of someone who is positive, your chances of exposure are much less than if you are seated side by side and share a phone and a computer with someone who is positive.

“If you do develop symptoms…that’s when you want to get tested,” Pavia said.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure, according to the CDC.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

After someone beats the coronavirus, do they become immune? Are there lasting effects?

“It is looking very much as if, as with most viral diseases, that you’re immune to the infection after you’ve had it. Now that doesn’t mean forever. It’s gonna take us a couple of years to see if that protection lasts,” Pavia said.

“Having talked to a number of patients who have recovered from [COVID-19]…people seem to take a couple of weeks to really get their wind back their endurance back,” he said.

Can you have the flu and the coronavirus at the same time?

“Right now, flu is finally disappearing. This week we were down to just a handful of cases, so that’s really good news, because it’s going to reduce the burden on our emergency rooms in our hospitals. And it also is good news for people because probably getting both of these virus at once is a double-whammy that nobody wants,” Pavia said.

Is there a way to find out if you’ve had the coronavirus before?

“We’re pretty sure that this coronavirus didn’t make it to the United States before early January,” Pavia said. “But what we do know is that it was spreading more broadly than anyone realized because the lack of testing.

“At some point, we will have blood tests that are going to be able to show whether you have been infected with coronavirus. Those tests aren’t available just yet, but they will be out, and they’ll be very useful,” Pavia said.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line 18004567707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


Join KSL either on the radio or on the podcast weekdays to hear your Coronavirus questions answered by the experts. Each day, members of the Utah COVID-19 task force and experts in the health field will be available to speak to your comments and concerns. Leave a voicemail at 801-237-2482 to ask us your virus questions during the pandemic.

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Coronavirus Call-in: Ramp down of flu season will ease hospital burden