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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

A 'double whammy' on hospitals: coronavirus and flu patients

What will flu season look like during a pandemic?

AUSTIN, Texas — Let's start things off with the silver lining – there may be fewer flu cases this year. 

"Ironically, we may have a little less flu with everybody doing social distancing and masking. That may help us a bit, actually," said the president of the Texas Medical Association, Dr. Diana Fite. 

Fite is also an emergency physician in Houston. 

"We are going to be stressing vaccinations highly for the flu, and that will be helpful too, but we are going to have major problems with capacity if we have people pretty sick with the flu on top of what we've got now," said Fite. 

She said while she knows people are trying to stay away from doctor's offices and opting for tele-health visits, not getting your flu vaccine could hurt in the long run. 

"That will put a bit of a double whammy on things, to not be able to get our flu vaccinations on top of everything else that needs to be done," Fite said. 

She said, worst case scenario, flu season plus a pandemic could mean waiting rooms get backed up with people waiting to be seen. 

"Having to do things like open up the tents and open up the stadium and other ways to get just more capacity," Fite said. "But then we have a problem of having enough staff, not only physicians, but particularly nurses and other health care workers to take care of that load, even if we find the way to get extra beds made."

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On Wednesday, Austin Public Health said hospitals and resources are stretched. It also announced the convention center will open up as a "field hospital" on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Texas Department of State Health Services reported Texas had 10,291 new cases.

Fite not only encouraged people to get their flu vaccine once it is available, but she also said people need to continue to wash their hands, wear masks and practice social distancing. 

"If we could just get this down to a better level then we would have room to handle some flu cases," said Fite. "But the problem is we just don't see people doing real well with that right now overall."

Fite said the flu vaccine typically becomes available in mid-September.

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