by Jaesuh Lee & Suvi Talvitie, News Editor & News Reporter
graphic by Emily Cheng
The onset of flu season this year introduced the threat of a new “tripledemic” — a dangerous combination of the flu, COVID–19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Massachusetts Department of Health show recent increases in cases, including a rise in weekly Covid infections.
Biology teacher Michelle Caine said that like in previous years, the increase in infections can be attributed to the typical difference in weather that comes with the winter season.
“As the weather gets cooler and people’s bodies are under a little more stress in terms of adjusting to different weather and dealing with the cold, that always leads to a little bit of a peak in illness,” she said.
Unlike past flu seasons, however, school nurse Karleen Kiritsy said that the spike in illness has been heightened due to a lack of immunity from wearing masks throughout last winter.
“[During the pandemic], we were not exposed to common respiratory viruses, and so [people] haven’t built up their own immunity,” she said.
These diseases, particularly RSV, are very dangerous for young children. In the preschool, staff members are taking extensive precautions to keep children safe. Pre-school program director Kevin Leanne said that the preschool has implemented stricter participation requirements that resemble those of the onset of Covid.
Leanne and other staff have also been more cautious when high school students taking Early Childhood Development enter the preschool.
“If [the high schoolers are] not feeling well [they just won’t] come into the preschool. Some of them will choose to wear masks and come in,” he said.
Junior Gabriella Priddis said that after having lived through several years of the pandemic, she is trying to be more vigilant in taking steps to avoid getting sick.
“Getting [Covid] is definitely not what I want, because I don’t want to go back into having to stay away from people. It’s scary,” she said.
Kiritsy said that while she is aware of rising sickness rates in the nation as a whole, any risk associated with these viruses mostly affects younger pediatric patients and does not pose a large threat to the high school population.
Senior Ethan Pang said that he does not plan to wear a mask when not sick and does not think that any additional mandates are necessary.
“Whenever I wear a mask it’s because I have symptoms, even if I don’t have anything serious. [It’s mostly] so that others don’t get alarmed,” he said.
South parent Hanni Menn said that no matter how much authority health officials have, individuals are the most responsible for their own safety.
“As a parent and as a physician, I think that public health mitigation efforts are good, but ultimately it comes down to an individual action of preventing infection,” she said. “It’s everyone’s personal responsibility to be aware of the current outbreak, with Covid, RSV, and the flu. [People should] frequently get tested and stay at home if they’re feeling sick.”
School nurse Gail Kramer said that although the illnesses have been manageable at the school so far, she still advises preventative measures.
“Stay home when you’re sick. If you’re coughing and you’re sick, stay home, and do frequent hand washing. RSV has always been here,” she said. “Getting vaccinated against the flu yearly is important, and the same for Covid, as it’s been shown that vaccines for Covid really help people not get sick.”
Caine said that students should prioritize their well-being, as proper nutrition and other healthy practices are key steps in maintaining general health.
“It’s good to make sure you have [all of your] vitamins and minerals and make sure you’re staying away from people that are sick,” she said. “If you’re sick, [what is important is] really getting rest and not trying to push through it because what your body needs more than anything else is just to be able to recover.”