Tripledemic may be on the way

Advice from Vashon Medical Reserve Corp on staying healthy and safe.

The internet, newspapers, and news channels have been filled lately with talk that we may be facing a tripledemic.

In this edition, we have some tripledemic advice from the experts at the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). But first, let’s take a moment to explain what people mean by a tripledemic.

It boils down to the unfortunate timing of the annual peaks of three well-known viral diseases — COVID, seasonal influenza (flu), and RSV.

• COVID risk on Vashon is currently at its lowest level since April (see the risk level graphic). However, many experts, including the Vashon MRC, believe another fall and winter surge is on the way. Cases have surged in Europe and are rising on the east coast of the U.S., driven by the arrival of new Omicron variants, and by COVID fatigue as people drop basic COVID precautions after two and a half years of living with the pandemic.

• Seasonal influenza (flu) comes every year. It arrived early this year according to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). Flu trackers note that the flu season in the southern hemisphere was severe, and that’s a well-known pattern sending a strong signal that we will have a tough flu season here in the U.S. Our flu seasons the last two years were light as a result of COVID precautions, such as masking, which also help prevent flu. However, many people have dropped those precautions.

• Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) probably sounds new but it’s not. Almost all children get it at least once before they are two years old. RSV often gets lumped together in the group of viral respiratory diseases we call a cold. However, RSV may cause more severe symptoms than other common cold viruses, leading to prolonged coughing and wheezing.

This is particularly true for the first RSV infection in children younger than two years, and for older adults and adults with heart, lung, or immune problems. This year, RSV arrived early, and children’s hospitals across the country, including King County, are overwhelmed with very sick kids.

Notice the common element of timing — the possibility of a COVID surge plus the early arrivals of seasonal flu and RSV. These three diseases are converging and that’s why some people call it a tripledemic.

Tripledemic Advice

We sat down with some of the experts from the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and asked them for answers to some questions we’ve been hearing lately about the possibilities of a tripledemic.

We have dinner parties and family visits coming up. What should we be doing to stay safe?

Agree in advance on what you’ll all do to protect the group – don’t wait until your guests arrive. A few simple, easy steps include: asking everyone to test just before getting together, wearing masks when not eating or drinking, running HEPA air purifiers, and keeping fresh air circulating. Ask people who are sick to stay home, especially young kids, to avoid spreading one of the tripledemic diseases. Don’t forget to order your ten no-charge rapid tests every month from the state of Washington at:

We are seniors and don’t have any young kids. Why does RSV matter for us?

Adults get RSV, just like small children. Any respiratory disease — particularly RSV, flu, and COVID — can be risky for seniors, especially those with heart, lung, or immune challenges. COVID is particularly dangerous for those older than 65, so imagine the increased risk if you get one or two of these respiratory infections at the same time as COVID.

What should we do about vaccinations? Some people say they don’t work.

Vaccines do work, and for some diseases, they provide almost complete protection. Respiratory vaccines, particularly for COVID and flu, work well to prevent serious illness and death. Plus, your immune system will be strengthened for some months after a COVID booster so you are less likely to get sick, although the immunity fades over time. At this time, there is no vaccine for RSV, although one is being developed.

My friends say the pandemic is over. What should I say to them?

It’s great news that COVID risk levels on Vashon are at their lowest point since April. The COVID risk level remains at basic (see details at the end of this article). Congratulations on your strong work to keep COVID in check on the island! So, take a victory lap and enjoy this lull while you can. Please make the personal choice to take the simple precautions we described above, because we still have disease on the island. COVID is not over. People get COVID every week, and some must be hospitalized. Nationally, more than 2,600 people died from COVID each week in October. That doesn’t sound like it’s over to us. We are particularly concerned about what will happen when the holiday gatherings start around Thanksgiving.

COVID Risk Level: Still at Basic

The tri-county hospitalization rate remains well below the 3.5 hospitalizations for COVID per week per 100,000 population benchmark that would trigger a move up to the Elevated Risk level. The case rate and test positivity rate have also been trending down.

The risk level estimate is based on data from the state Department of Health’s COVID dashboard. The risk estimate has been customized to Vashon’s particular situation because it takes into account that Vashon is in a three-county COVID exposure pool —King, Pierce, and Kitsap.

One-third of the island population takes a round-trip ferry ride to the mainland each day. Therefore, the metrics from the three counties are blended to take into account the island’s regional COVID exposure risk. For more information on the methodology behind Vashon’s COVID Risk Advice Tool, visit

Basic Risk Level Advice

• Wear N95 mask indoors in public if you have been exposed to COVID, are at risk for health or other reasons, and/or live with or spend time with someone at high risk.

• Keep vaccinations up to date, including boosters.

• Maintain good ventilation at home and at work.

• Avoid those with suspected or confirmed COVID.

• If exposed to COVID, wear a mask in public and avoid contact with those at high risk for 10 days.

• Always home-test if you have symptoms.

• If you test positive, isolate for at least 5 days and until you test negative.

• If immunocompromised, discuss additional prevention actions with your healthcare provider.