Flu cases decline in Erie County, COVID-19 case count remains stable – GoErie.com

Erie County’s severe 2022-23 flu season is showing signs of easing as cases declined last week for the first time since October, though they remain near record levels.
The Erie County Department of Health also reported the first flu-related death of the season. A person older than 80 who was not vaccinated against flu died the week of Dec. 4-10.
No other details were available from the county health department.
More:Coughing, congestion and sore throats: Do Erie residents have COVID-19, RSV or the flu?
More people are being hospitalized with flu. The county heath department reported 20 hospitalizations Dec. 4-10, compared to 17 the previous week and 67 since flu season officially started Oct. 1.
“Our flu hospitalizations have caught up with our COVID ones. We’ve had 35 admissions with COVID-19 in December (through Dec. 12) and 36 with flu,” said Dr. Christopher Clark, Saint Vincent Hospital president. “There is more of a likelihood that the people with flu are in here because of flu, while many of those in with COVID are here for other reasons and have it incidentally.”
The nationwide flu outbreak is so intense that the county set weekly records for flu cases with 647 cases from Nov. 20-26 and 727 cases from Nov. 27-Dec. 3.
More:Erie County reports more COVID-19 deaths; sets flu record for second straight week
Last week’s total declined to 607 cases, which is still one of the highest numbers since flu became a reportable disease in 2003.
“While we are seeing more flu cases, it doesn’t seem that the flu this season is more virulent,” Clark said. “The people we are seeing in the hospital tend to be older people and those with chronic health conditions, though we have also seen some younger ones, too.”
The county health department did not publicly provide flu hospitalizations by age, but here is the breakdown of cases through Dec. 10 (totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding):
“The best advice regarding flu is that people should get a flu vaccine as soon as possible, since it takes two weeks for the body to develop immunity from the vaccine,” Clark said. “It also makes sense to wear a face mask when out in public, especially if you are around people at higher risk of flu and COVID complications.”
While the county’s number of flu cases has surged in recent weeks, its number of COVID-19 cases has remained relatively stable.
A total of 220 new cases were reported in the county Dec. 7-13, compared to 212 the previous week and 207 two weeks earlier, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The county’s number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has increased during that time, from a daily average of 18.1 from Nov. 23-29 to 28.9 from Dec. 7-13. No additional COVID-19 deaths have been reported since Dec. 8, after 23 were reported the previous month.
“We are seeing a higher percentage of older people with COVID in the hospital,” Clark said. “In November, one third of them were older than 80. So far in December, it’s just over half.”
More:Erie County sees surge in COVID-19 deaths as cases, hospitalizations decline
The average age of the 23 most recent COVID-19 deaths was in the 80s, according to the county health department. Health officials have said older people sometimes don’t receive as much immunity from vaccines as younger ones do.
Though COVID-19 cases haven’t risen in Erie County as they have in other parts of the country in recent weeks, that could change. Samples taken Dec. 9 from the Erie Wastewater Treatment Plant show a significant rise in the amount of coronavirus.
“We continue to monitor flu, COVID and RSV,” Clark said. “We have some busy days at the hospital but a majority of our patients are here for reasons other than respiratory illnesses.”
Here is a look at the county’s other COVID-19 measurements between Nov. 30-Dec. 6 and Dec. 7-13, according to the state health department
Contact David Bruce at dbruce@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNBruce.