The Perfect Enemy | Will Sutton: Don’t be silly. Protect yourself, family from flu, COVID.
December 2, 2022
Read Time:4 Minute

Like most of us, I really love Thanksgiving with all the trimmings and the gathering of family and friends. Not everyone has a group of family and friends to enjoy this season. Those of us who do are blessed.

If your family is anything like mine, Thanksgiving isn’t a day. It’s a long weekend. It starts with Tasting Thanksgiving Eve. It continues with Turkey and Trimmings Day. There’s Just-A-Second-Taste Thanksgiving night. Can’t forget Leftovers Friday and What-Else-Ya-Got Saturday. All of that with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade first thing Thanksgiving morning and back-to-back NFL games. Of course, there’s the Bayou Classic on that Saturday afternoon.

Many of us were joyful about getting out as pandemic mandates were lifted and as recommendations came less frequently. We stopped washing our hands, stopped applying sanitizer, stopped masking indoors and stopped taking the prescribed vaccines.

Despite people saying things like “when we were in the pandemic” or “the pandemic is over,” it’s still with us. 

We shouldn’t be gathering in large groups, outside or inside, without taking precautions. Otherwise, we’re putting our lives — and the lives of others — at risk. Not without precautions.

COVID-19 isn’t what it used to be, but people are still getting sick and dying. Now we have a serious flu season and not enough of are prepared.

If we’re not careful, some of us could get a double whammy, sharing all or some of it with our children, family and friends.

Louisiana State Health Director Joe Kanter is concerned about what he sees in our state as he watches some disturbing situations elsewhere. He told me Wednesday that flu has been strong and early this season, as predicted. “We’re running about a month and a half early. … We already, as of today, have hit a point higher than any of the prior five flu seasons and we’re still on the upswing,” he said.

Kanter said the CDC has indicated that there are more flu hospitalizations nationally this season than any of the past 10. Just recently, there were five pediatric deaths, and one of the children passed in Louisiana.

Kanter said some communities have set up beds in tents outside of hospitals because there are so many flu patients requiring inpatient care. We don’t need to see that in Louisiana.

And there’s still COVID out there.

Of the 4.52 million people who live in Louisiana, only 53% of us have been vaccinated against the coronavirus that crippled our lives the last couple of years. About 1.47 million got boosters since the first one was available. A large majority of those were adults 18 years old and older, but the number includes about 27,600 who are 12-17 years old and another 6,900 who are 5-11 years old.

More people are getting the latest COVID protection, the bivalent booster, but not enough. More than 192,300 in Louisiana have gotten the newest and most effective booster. Of that number, about 189,000 are adults 18 and older. About 2,500 who are 12-17 have the extra protection and 700 are 5-11. That’s simply not enough.

I’ve done my part. I got my quadrivalent, a senior high-dose, flu shot a few weeks ago. I got my updated COVID booster at the Nov. 12 New Orleans Health Department’s Flu Ready NOLA event at the Milne Recreation Center. Cameron Ewing, a third-year pharmacy student at Xavier University, took my blood pressure. Logan Smith, a New Orleans Emergency Management System EMT, jabbed my left shoulder with the booster. I was one of 172 people who visited and I got one of about 210 vaccinations administered.

Of our 64 parishes, most have a low community-level COVID status. Several have a medium risk. East Carroll Parish is the worst; it has a high community-level status.

The Louisiana Department of Health, the New Orleans Health Department and several partners scheduled a Nov. 19 vaccination event at the Joe Brown Park Recreation Center on Read Boulevard. New Orleans health officials have a Flu Ready NOLA event on Dec. 10 at New Orleans East Hospital from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I don’t want you to follow my lead for my reasons. I want the best protection I can get, and I want to reduce the risk that I might spread the flu — or COVID — without knowing I have it. Whatever your reasons, I hope you’ll get a jab or two, soon.

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