OC Officials Warn of Upcoming Flu Season and COVID-19 Overlap

September 11, 2020 Updated: September 12, 2020

Orange County officials on Sept. 10 warned the public of the upcoming flu season and said it could lead to increased hospitalizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our medical professionals are extremely concerned as flu season is soon to overlap with COVID-19,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel at a press conference.

“The symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar: fever, cough, shortness of breath. … A misunderstanding of whether someone has COVID-19 or the flu could lead to increased doctors visits, hospital visits, and more.”

Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency and the county health officer, said both the federal government and the state of California have taken steps to ensure there will be an increased number of flu vaccines available to Orange County residents for the fall and winter.

“We are expecting several shipments starting at the end of September. Be on the lookout for a flu shot event in the community throughout five districts,” he said.

The flu shots will be available at various locations throughout the county, with both walk-up and drive-through options.

Chau said the cities of Santa Ana and Anaheim are hot spots for the disease in the county and have been experiencing high positivity rates. He reminded residents to keep following the official guidelines.

“If you don’t need to go out, don’t go out,” he said.

“The order for no mass gathering is still in effect. Exceptions are for outdoor gatherings for religious reasons, for cultural reasons, or for protests.”

On Sept. 8, Orange County moved up from the purple to the red tier in California’s COVID-19 monitoring system. Chau issued a new health order that same day that offered guidance to local businesses on how to reopen safely.

Officials reported that places such as restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters, gyms, nail salons, tattoo shops, and body waxing businesses were able to open indoors with limits on the number of customers allowed inside, along with other modifications.

Orange County’s Regal movie theaters opened that day, while AMC theaters indicated they would open on Sept. 11. Moviegoers will be required to wear snug-fitting masks; if they don’t have one, masks will be on sale at the theaters for $1.

Steel said at the press conference that starting Sept. 22, libraries in the county would begin offering a “new grab-and-go service,” allowing residents to reserve one-hour sessions inside, with self-service checkout available. Meanwhile, curbside service would continue.

Orange County K to 12 schools are still on track to reopen for in-person instruction on Sept. 22.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also signed a bill on Sept. 9 that provides paid sick days to all Californians who are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19 in 2020, including those who work for companies that have opted out of covering their employees under federal law.

“This bill fills in gaps in our federal and state paid sick days policy and gives our extraordinary employees a little more peace of mind as they take time to care for themselves and protect those around them from COVID-19,” Newsom said in a statement.

The Orange County Health Care Agency on Sept. 10 reported 50,471 cases of COVID-19 and 1,069 deaths. A total of 716,612 people have been tested for the disease, and 239 people are currently hospitalized.


Follow Sarah on Twitter: @dadasarahle