Covid and flu cases are on the rise.
Covid no longer plays the dominant role that it once did in most of our lives. But the risk of Covid — and other viruses — persists. This winter, experts expect cases, hospitalizations and deaths from viral diseases to rise once again.
The increase may have already begun. Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths are up over the past two weeks. The upswing resembles the trend we have seen in recent years after Thanksgiving, typically continuing through the holiday season and into the following year. (Check case counts in your area with The Times’s tracker.)
Flu cases are up, too. The C.D.C. classifies the vast majority of states as having “high” or “very high” activity for the flu and related illnesses. “Hospitalizations for flu continue to be the highest we have seen at this time of year in a decade,” the agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, said last week.
Cases and hospitalizations from R.S.V., which typically causes cold-like symptoms but sometimes can be more serious, also spiked earlier this fall. But they seem to have already peaked.
The infectious disease climate in the U.S. right now is not a picture of Covid’s going away, but of its falling in line alongside other endemic respiratory illnesses in the fall and winter. In some years, Covid could be the worst of the bunch. In others, the flu or R.S.V. could be. “This is the reality that we’ll be living with moving forward,” said Dr. Céline Gounder, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Today’s newsletter will look at this new normal for Covid and other viruses.
A viral season
By now, the disease trends of the fall and winter may seem familiar: As people gather for the holidays, and generally indoors to avoid the cold, respiratory viruses spread more easily — true for Covid, but also for the flu and R.S.V.
The biggest risks are for the very old and very young.
Covid is still a threat, in large part because many people do not have recent immunity from vaccines or infections. But the virus is now largely a disease of older adults, as David Wallace-Wells explained in Times Opinion: Americans 65 and older now account for 90 percent of deaths. (Some younger groups, particularly the immunocompromised, also remain vulnerable.)
R.S.V. and the flu often afflict an additional population, hitting both the very young and old hardest.
The flu and R.S.V. have been around for a long time. They were tame in recent years, largely because widespread actions to prevent Covid, such as masking and social distancing, worked against them, too. But because a lot of people have had no recent exposure to the flu or R.S.V., they are also more vulnerable. That has allowed for a comeback by both viruses.
“The combination of flu and Covid for older people is going to mean a pretty tough winter for hospitals,” Gounder said. “People talk about patients in the hallway — that was not uncommon, actually, before Covid. We’re going to see more of that.”
What to do
You probably know by now how to reduce your risk of Covid: Get vaccinated and boosted. When the virus is spreading quickly, mask indoors and get tested regularly. If you get sick, isolate to avoid spreading the virus and try to obtain a prescription for Paxlovid to reduce the risk of hospitalization or worse.
“It’s all the obvious things,” Gounder said. “It’s really a question of whether people want to do them or not.”
Similar advice applies to the other two viruses, since they spread in similar ways. You can get an annual flu shot along with a Covid booster at your local pharmacy. No vaccine exists for R.S.V., although some are in development.
The spread of the viruses amounts to a mixed picture. The bad news is that the three pathogens will likely be a regular part of our lives, especially in the fall and winter. The good news is that we are not totally helpless against them.
Here’s how to spot the flu, particularly serious symptoms, in children.
The dog flu is back, too.
THE LATEST NEWS
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Saudi Arabia tried to raise its global profile with a professional golf league, despite warnings from McKinsey consultants of the financial risk, confidential records show.
Nostalgic for an imperial past: A prince stored explosives in his hunting lodge as part of a plot to overthrow the German government.
War in Ukraine
Ukraine struck a Russian-occupied city, Melitopol, signaling the importance of longer-range weapons.
A pro-Russian politician is paying people to protest the Western-friendly government in Moldova, creating instability in a country neighboring Ukraine.
Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian penal colony highlights how hostage-takers often lose more than they gain.
Other Big Stories
Because of a jumbled and sluggish prison system, hundreds of Louisiana inmates remain behind bars beyond their legal release dates.
Karen Bass became Los Angeles’s first female mayor in a ceremony that underscored the city’s challenges, including homelessness and racial tensions.
A winter storm is continuing its cross-country sweep into parts of the western U.S. today. (Here’s how much it could snow where you live.)
NASA’s Artemis I moon mission successfully ended with a splashdown in the Pacific.
Divorce agreements are leaving some Hasidic Jewish children stuck in failing schools in New York.
Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss Kyrsten Sinema’s becoming an independent.
Twitter can’t be — and shouldn’t be — the world’s “town square,” Ezra Klein writes.
The new inflatable Santa: Vintage decorations have come to town.
The nicest place online? An app is identifying animals and helping humans get along.
Nashville: Could it become a Hollywood for conservatives?
A morning listen: On “Hard Fork,” how an A.I. chatbot is inspiring awe and fear.
Neglected skill: Try this 10-second balance test.
Lives Lived: Mills Lane refereed more than 100 boxing title fights, including the one in which Mike Tyson bit off a piece of his opponent’s ear. Lane died at 85.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
N.F.L. Playoff: The Eagles clinched a spot with a 48-22 win against the Giants. The Chargers are one step closer after beating the Dolphins 23-17.
An N.B.A. title contender? The power forward Zion Williamson is adding fuel to a budding Pelicans-Suns rivalry.
Two favorites, two underdogs: France and Argentina entered the World Cup as contenders, but Morocco and Croatia both have a realistic chance of winning the tournament. The semifinals start tomorrow.
Quick thinking: Budweiser salvaged its tournament sponsorship by marketing alcohol-free beer.
Qatari wealth: This business owner has three swimming pools and a stable, but insists he’s not rich.
Migrant workers: Many of those who built the tournament stadiums are trapped in debt.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The year in style
The Times’s Styles section has a wide purview. It covers fashion, of course, but also culture, gender, social change, the weird corners of the internet, and anything else that doesn’t fit neatly elsewhere into a newspaper. With that breadth in mind, Styles writers and editors have selected their 93 most stylish “people” of 2022.
“People” is in quotes because not everything on the list is a person. There are nonhumans, like the spotted lanternfly and the James Webb Space Telescope. There are characters, like Lydia Tár in the film “Tár” (yes, she is fictional). There are costumes and digital avatars. And there are plenty of real people, including Beyoncé and John Fetterman.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Caramelize onions for a rich galette.
Wirecutter Gift Guide
Do you have someone on your list who’s impossible to shop for? We can help.
What to Read
Discover Jamaica through these books.
Now Time to Play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was womanhood. Here is today’s puzzle.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Shine brightly (five letters).
And here’s today’s Wordle. After, use our bot to get better.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — German
P.S. Karoun Demirjian is joining The Times from The Washington Post as a congressional correspondent.
Here’s today’s front page.
“The Daily” is about the job market.
Matthew Cullen, Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at email@example.com.