Tripledemic in 2023: Where we’re at with RSV, Covid, and the flu

Covid, flu, RSV declining in hospitals as ‘tripledemic’ threat fades

The fall and winter of 2022 to mid-January 2023 was severe for seasonal illnesses, including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the common cold, making health officials worldwide fear an abundance of infections with these tripledemic viruses. 

The status of flu, RSV, and Covid

With Coronavirus variants on the rise, COVID-19 infections are expected to continue to spread well into Spring 2023.

Hospitals saw massive spikes in the US, with so many patients sick with RSV that had completely inundated Hospital staff. While facing their busiest season in memory last fall, hospital leaders floated a plan to enlist the National Guard to set up tents outside of hospitals nationwide. Doctors braced for a stressful winter—a looming disaster some dubbed a “tripledemic”—with flu season revving up, Coronavirus roaring back and the holidays providing fuel for viruses to spread.

Since then, the RSV wave has receded in many counties across the country. Flu cases have rapidly dwindled. Covid hospitalizations rose briefly after Christmas, only to fall again.

Doctors are  seeing the “normal busy,” but not the extreme busy that was previously anticipated. Currently, most Hospitals are back to normal staffing, though still busy, it’s nowhere near to what they saw in the Fall of 2022.

It turns out that early waves of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza peaked just before the New Year, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)

The expected winter uptick of Coronavirus was nowhere close to overwhelming hospitals, as it did in 2021 when Covid wards were filled with unvaccinated people struggling to breathe and last Winter when the highly transmissible omicron variant ignited a massive wave of illness.

New COVID-19 variants and stats 

After peaking at 47,000 infections around January 10, the CDC 7-day Covid data tracker shows a slight decline in infections in some counties.

As of January 25, 2023, there are 118 (3.7%) counties, districts, or territories with a high COVID-19 Community Level, 855 (26.6%) with a medium Community Level, and 2,242 (69.6%) with a low Community Level.

The total number of Covid-19 patients occupying just 5 percent of hospital beds, compared with 21 percent at this point last year, according to CDC data.

Still, 48 out of 52 jurisdictions had high- or medium-level. Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and the District of Columbia are the only jurisdictions to have all counties at low Community Levels.

Weekly emergency room visits for all three tripledemic viruses combined peaked in early December 2022—with no post-holiday resurgence, according to a new CDC dashboard. For senior citizens, Covid and flu emergency room visits peaked in late December 2022.

Experts caution the country could see additional increases in flu, which sometimes has two peaks, and another RSV season in spring 2023.

The highly transmissible and immune-evading XBB.1.5 subvariant of Coronavirus that accounts for half of all new US infections and has been dominant in the Northeast, could spread elsewhere.

Despite the declines, it’s still a busy winter for hospitals contending with a new unpredictable rhythm of infectious diseases. The viral onslaughts have taken a toll on an exhausted health-care workforce and have compromised their ability to care for patients with non-respiratory emergencies, hospital executives say.

Even though the Omicron sub-variants that are now circulating cause concern because of their ability to evade antibodies, the immune systems of those who have been vaccinated or previously infected are still effective at keeping the cases mild, especially if they have recently received booster shots.

What does this mean for the future?

This is good news overall, but the questions we all still have are: where is this going? Will we settle into a typical respiratory season where things will start to calm down?

Flu is notoriously unpredictable in the public health field, but experts monitoring its trajectory say it appears to be in line with previous flu seasons and has started to decline early because it started early. The share of outpatient visits with respiratory illness has fallen below baseline levels in parts of the country, including the Upper Midwest, Great Plains and South Central United States, according to the CDC.

Now the concern is: Are we going to have a typical Spring or a late season Influenza B surge? Doctors are urging people who have not received their flu shots to do so, as Americans have less immunity, given the low numbers of Influenza B cases in recent years.

Get tested. Get treated. Feel better, faster!

Are you coughing, sneezing, running a fever or feeling generally unwell?

Our new combo test will tell you if you’ve got RSV, Flu A or Flu B, or COVID-19 with a single swab. Results are available within 1-2 hours of testing! This test is fast, safe, and accurate. Find a Covid Clinic testing location near you.

Knowing your diagnosis means knowing how to recover faster–and if isolation precautions should be taken in order to protect friends, family, and the immunocompromised. 
If you test positive for COVID-19, get the treatment you need by connecting virtually with one of our online doctors right now. Wait times are usually 5 minutes or less!

Still have questions?

Gone are the days of crowded waiting rooms, daunting hospitals, and cold exam tables. At Rume, we offer care on your terms, where and when you need it, including telemedicine, drive thrus, and popups. You’ll get quick results and trusted insights.