Opinion: Is everyone you know sick in Utah?

Jan 10, 2023, 1:30 PM | Updated: 2:24 pm
BURBANK, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: A cold and flu medicine shelf is empty in a CVS pharmacy on Dece...
BURBANK, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: A cold and flu medicine shelf is empty in a CVS pharmacy on December 6, 2022 in Burbank, California. Southern California is being hit by a wave of three viruses, the flu, COVID-19 and RSV, with the CDC classifying the state of California as having a ‘high’ level of flu activity. Shortages of basic cold and flu remedies are being seen in some pharmacies in the region ahead of the holiday season. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

Does it seem like everyone is sick in Utah, or is it just me?

Right now my radio partner is sick. My associate producer is sick. Our morning reporter is sick. Our news director was sick — and those are just the ones in my immediate area. Half of the people who are here are wearing masks because they’re just coming back from being sick.

So what’s going on? Are we really sicker right now in Utah or are we just calling in sick more often?

Maybe both.

I checked with Intermountain Healthcare‘s website Germ Watch, and right now there is “high activity” with both flu and RSV. Although the cases of both illnesses are decreasing. Dr. Tamara Sheffield — the medical director at Intermountain Healthcare, told me “although influenza numbers are going down from our peak, the peak this season was very high compared to previous seasons — so we are still at very high numbers currently.”

So we have been sicker in Utah when it comes to the flu and RSV. But what about COVID?

Graph (found on Germ Watch) printed with permission from Intermountain Healthcare.

Right now, there is moderate COVID activity in our state — and those numbers are increasing.

Graph (found on Germ Watch) printed with permission from Intermountain Healthcare.

COVID cases may be increasing because of the new variant.

Have you heard about this one? It’s called XBB.1.5.

Catchy, isn’t it? And actually — it is catchy.

Experts say it is here in Utah and it is extremely contagious. Sheffield explained that “COVID-19 continues to be with us. Our ER visits were back up in November/December and new variants are now moving into Utah.”

“The reports I’ve read so far indicate that it will be amongst the faster, if not the fastest, spreading variant so far,” Brady Bradford with the Southeast Utah Health Department told KSL NewsRadio. “The possibility that it’s going to be much less than a year, year-and-a-half ago when we saw Delta waves and Omicron waves — because we have so many people vaccinated and been infected by so many variants. Their bodies can respond.”

But wait. There’s more.

People also are sick in Utah with both metapneumovirus and parainfluenza right now. Metapneumovirus feels like a common cold. You may not even know you have it. Parainfluenza can cause croup in young children, and cough, chest pain and fever in the rest of us.

We’re not done yet. There are also cases of rhinovirus, what we most often think of as the common cold, and adenovirus which mostly affects younger children.

Printed with permission from Intermountain Healthcare (found on the Germ Watch website).

So, yes, we are sicker right now. But also, we just don’t go to work sick like we used to.

It used to be almost expected that you would power through a cold or even flu. I remember hearing a manager say once, “You better be coughing up a lung if you don’t show up!”

That was our hyper-productive, American toughness. We work, no matter what. In fact, I’m quite sure I dragged my behind into KSL on more than one occasion thinking: “Man, I should be home in bed.”

COVID changed us

Since the start of the pandemic, things changed. It is no longer socially acceptable to show up sick. If you are coughing, sneezing, sweating — whatever — your coworkers, bosses and society as a whole want you to stay home.

So, we have — and we are.

If you’re down with something right now, hang in there. For the rest of us, it’s the three-part game plan: Wash your hands, cover your sneezes and coughs and regularly wipe down tables, toys and anything else we touch (including the phone or keyboard you’re touching right now.)

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View. 

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Opinion: Is everyone you know sick in Utah?