Pandemic, Tripledemic, Epidemic Oh My! Part 2


My intent in this column is to keep our community current with the local infectious state of affairs in the hope that this will help individuals and families make the best decisions for themselves at this unusual time.

Here is what is happening in our county:

MultiCare runs Capital Medical Center and Mary’s Bridge Pediatric Hospital in Tacoma, our closest children’s medical center. A few weeks ago, the situation was dire, with 12-hour waits in the Emergency Department (ED) at Mary’s Bridge, Capital Medical Center inpatient beds full and a manageable ED volume, resulting in many respiratory illness admissions. According to Scott Thompson, corporate communications manager for MultiCare, as of 12/19/2022, there has been a decrease in both positive flu and RSV tests in the last few weeks, as well as hospital admissions for flu. Covid cases have been flat, with both Covid and flu low at Capital. All of MultiCare’s Puget Sound hospitals remain at or over capacity. Wait times are still long at Mary Bridge ED and get longer in the afternoon and evenings when parents get home from work.

Two weeks ago, a request for details from Providence, unfortunately, included no specific details, nor have I received an update. At that time, Chris T. Thomas, coordinator for media relations for South Puget Sound, shared that their clinical leads compared this year to a ‘bad flu season’ without a large influx of any of the three (Covid, flu or RSV) of late but in combination, they are contributing longer to wait times in the ED and a full hospital. He encouraged the community to follow their Providence Swedish Facebook page, which provides updates on the best places to go for care.

On Dec 1, I interviewed Bridget Sipher, MD, from Olympia Pediatrics.  They are seeing a large volume of respiratory infections in the kids (predominantly influenza A and RSV) but also Covid and a variety of other viruses. This is the busiest her clinic has been in the history of her decades-long career, with same-day appointments filling 2-3 days ahead and all staff working an extra half to one day per week to keep up with the need. They refer parents to Mary’s Bridge and Seattle Children’s websites for guidance on how to care for their sick children (see links below).  She is grateful for most parents who have been patient and understanding thru this time.

On Dec 7, I had a 45-minute scheduled Zoom meeting with our Thurston County Health officer, Dimyana Abdelmalek, M.D., who answered my questions and explained in detail how the county and state gather data on infectious diseases.  It is complicated!  What they know affects sharing information with the community about public health. She connected me to a dozen or more web links to stay current and share with Jolt readers.

RSV and influenza (in general) are not ‘reportable’ diseases and as such the health department has no data on these diseases. Instead, they glean a sense of the current situation from ‘sentinel providers’ who provide surveillance information. What she did share was her sadness that we had lost our first two citizens to influenza A, a grim opening to this year’s influenza season and that, at the current time, we are in a ‘pretty dynamic situation.’ COVID transmission is considered LOW though 5.2% of staffed hospital beds and 7.2% of ICU beds are filled with COVID cases in our county.

She wants the community to understand that both RSV and influenza (as well as most of the viruses that cause colds) are transmitted by aerosols and droplets. As such, wiping down surfaces and wearing masks can reduce transmission.  She also recommends that people stay home if they are ill and wait to go out until the fever breaks and when you no longer require medication for symptoms. Cover your coughs with your sleeve (not hands) and mask if you must expose others. If you happen to be at high risk of complications from influenza (older adults >65, any underlying heart or lung conditions or immune system issues), consider being tested for influenza and starting on antiviral medication ideally within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.  

Here are a few relevant links:

Excellent understandable immune system education:

Mary Bridge Children’s website has details on where and when to get care in a gold bar at the top of their home page:


Seattle Children’s home page has similar information in the blue bar at the top of their home page:


Stay well, and enjoy this holiday season!

Debra Glasser, M.D., is a retired internal medicine physician who lives in Olympia. Her laughter is infectious. Got a question for her? Write to her at drdebra@theJOLTnews.com


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  • LauratheBruce

    This site has some excellent information on how to take care of yourself and family. Lots of simple home remedies that will boost the immune system and what others are doing to get through this. Blessings to All!


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