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The Executive Briefing - Friday, December 9th

Are masks back for the holidays?

Flash Briefing:

Roslyn is joined by fan-favorite Dr. L.J. Tan of Immunize.org to discuss the newly coined "Tripledemic" of COVID, Flu, and RSV, and the challenges (and good news!) about the cold and flu season that's upon us.

Listen here on Spotify, Apple, Soundcloud, or Stitcher!


  • Paxlovid has been free so far, but soon the government will stop paying for it, which means fewer people will receive potentially lifesaving treatment. (KHN)
  • Cases in LA are spiking and deaths are rising there. (LA Times)
  • Pfizer is partnering with a small startup to develop new oral COVID antiviral pills. (Reuters)
  • The FDA approved the updated bivalent COVID booster for kids as young as six months. (ABC)
  • The House passed a defense bill that lifts the military COVID vaccine mandate. (AP)
  • Antivirals (like Paxlovid) work against the latest Omicron subvariant like BQ.1.1, which is good news because monoclonal antibodies don’t work anymore on these variants. (CIDRAP)
  • Long COVID is distorting the labor market and hurting the economy. (CNBC)

Public Health & Mpox News:

  • Hospitals are the fullest they’ve been at any point in the pandemic - 80% of beds are occupied nationwide - but it’s a combo of RSV, flu, and COVID. (CNN)
  • A scathing report details turmoil at the FDA’s food regulatory unit, and urges major change. (Politico)
  • Naloxone (brand name Narcan), which reverses the effect of drug overdoses, could soon be over-the-counter after the FDA gave it priority review, a move that would almost certainly save lives. (Axios)
  • Several children have died in the UK from strep infection after their cases developed into a rare invasive Group A strep infection (including scarlet fever) which can be deadly for kids and the elderly. (Washington Post)
  • The MPox vaccine is safe and it works. (STAT)
  • Contaminated tap water sickened dozens of kids at a Boston hospital. (Boston Globe)

Mental Health News:

  • Schools are turning to telehealth to support their students’ mental health needs. (Washington Post)
  • TikTok mental health videos are full of misinformation - more than 83% contained misleading or incorrect info in a new study. (PCMag)
  • NYC Mayor Adams’ plan to involuntarily hospitalize unhoused New Yorkers is facing major legal challenges from advocates. (Politico)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

What is the incubation period for the flu? And how long are you infectious if you’ve got the flu?

The incubation period for flu (between exposure and symptom onset) ranges from 1-4 days and averages about 48 hours. You are infectious during that incubation period and for at least as long as you have symptoms - which is generally three to five days. This flu season is a little different because we haven’t been exposed to flu for several years, so many people who develop flu symptoms are sicker (and for longer) than they might have been a few years ago. The five-day guidance for isolation for COVID applies to flu, as does masking for several days after you’re feeling better.  

Are some people asymptomatic with the flu and still spreading it like they are with COVID?

Yes. There are studies that show that like COVID, up to half of all people infected with the flu are asymptomatic. When that’s coupled with being highly infectious during the one to two days before symptoms appear for those who do get sick, asymptomatic transmission of the flu is a major factor in its spread. There are some reports that those who are asymptomatic are less contagious, but we need some additional research in that area.

If the flu shot is a good match this year, why are so many people still getting the flu?

We weren’t exposed to the flu for a long time early in COVID so don’t have some of the natural immunities we would normally have. Making things worse, flu vaccination rates are well below last year’s, especially for kids, who spread the flu-like wildfire. And you can, unfortunately, still get the flu if you’ve been vaccinated. There’s actually an amazing 95% match between the flu strains circulating and this year’s flu vaccine. And while it’s still preventing about half of infections, flu strains start to change in very tiny ways once they begin circulating and that allows for infection even if you’ve been vaccinated. If you’ve been vaccinated and still get the flu, your likelihood of getting very sick and needing to be hospitalized drops dramatically. You won’t be as sick, and it won’t be for as long. It’s not too late to get a flu shot!

Why are colds and the flu more common in the winter?

There are a few reasons we get colds and flu viruses more in the winter. First, we’re indoors in enclosed spaces more when it’s cold, which gives viruses an easier time spreading, especially those spread through aerosolized respiratory droplets like COVID and at least in part the flu. But a new study shows that there’s even more to it, and the cold may actually damage the cells in our nose that create an immune response.

Best Read:

Face masks may return amid holiday 'tripledemic' of covid, flu, and RSV - The Washington Post

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.