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San Diego hospitals expect mild COVID surge following holidays

San Diego hospitals are preparing for a potential surge in COVID-19 and flu admissions following holiday gatherings. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman says local doctors aren’t expecting this year to be as bad as previous years.<br/>

San Diego hospitals are prepared for a potential surge in COVID-19 and flu admissions following the holidays. It's around this time when San Diego County sees the highest number of COVID-19 infections. Two local doctors do not expect that to happen this winter, although it is too early to tell.

"If you look at it trend-wise it’s good and we're very hopeful — but we’re very guarded still, because we’re not over in terms of Christmas or the New Year," said Dr. William Tseng, assistant chief of staff at Kaiser Permanente San Diego.

Tseng said the number of reported COVID-19 cases is not comparable to this time last year and many San Diegans have protection from vaccines and prior infections.

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"I think we're in much better shape," Tseng said. "Again, I want to be guarded about it but see what happens in the next month ... if everything is okay, I think we’ve dodged a big one."

Tseng says despite lower COVID-19 cases, hospitals are still busy.

"Not just with the influenza-like illness, but other diseases as well," he said. "The hospital is still busy but nothing like last year."

There were fears of a 'tripledemic' — of COVID-19, the flu and the respiratory virus RSV this winter, but Tseng said RSV continues to decline. Flu cases have dropped after an early surge, and COVID-19 cases are relatively low. There were 4,500 positive COVID-19 cases between Dec. 20-26 in San Diego County. During the same time last year, San Diego County had over 20,000 cases and continued to trend upward.

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"I can say that, for Thanksgiving, I think we've avoided a big spike — we're still getting a bump — but it's not a big spike."

Those who are at a high-risk for severe illnesses like COVID-19, can seek out the antiviral treatment Paxlovid.

"It prevents people from going to the hospital," said Dr. Kaveh Bahmanpour from Sharp Community Medical Group. "So I get a lot of calls [from patients] that they want to be prescribed."

Ever since the Thanksgiving holiday, Bahmanpour said he's gotten more of those calls. He says Sharp is expecting to see more patients coming in with COVID-19 and the flu following the holidays, but he also does not expect a large surge and said Sharp is prepared.

"Everybody is just waiting to see what happens," he said. "Hopefully it’s not going to be as bad, but you never know. There may be a surge coming from another part of the country or world."

Typically COVID-related hospitalizations come about two weeks after infections. Updated data from the county will be released on Thursday.