FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Health officials in the Central Valley continue to share their concerns about the ‘tripledemic’ as flu, RSV and COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Kaiser Permanente’s infectious disease expert Dee Lacy says while wearing masks and avoiding social gatherings kept people safe during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it also weakened people’s immune systems.

“Part of our protection against flu and RSV is having had it relatively recently,” she said.

That could be why many hospitals in the Central Valley are close to disaster levels. Fresno County was forced to implement the assess and refer policy last week.

“We’ve declined more in the past few days than we did in the entirety of the year before COVID-19 started,” said Dr. Nicole Webb from Valley Children’s Hospital.

There are currently 194 COVID-19-positive patients in Fresno County. Lacy says doctors have noticed a decrease in people who have their updated COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot.

“People kind of got out of the habit of it. So, fewer people are protected because they haven’t had flu recently and they haven’t been vaccinated,” she said.

While many people will be gathering for the holidays for the first time in years, Lacy recommends people get tested for COVID-19 before attending large gatherings and take into account who will be there.

“You have a family member who you want to get together with who is fragile, a newborn, elderly, or has multiple medical problems…maybe you do need to think about wearing a mask, avoiding large indoor gatherings,” she said.

If you are attending large gatherings for the holidays and you’re concerned about getting sick, Lacy recommends getting the flu shot and updated COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible so it has a couple of weeks to be at its most effective.