Just like the winter season, the flu is back and stronger than ever. Students are missing school for days at a time, professors are resorting to Zoom with the hope attendance will improve and Tallahassee hospitals are running rampant with sick patients.
This season has been so bad that our city and surrounding schools have made national news with a record number of cases still steadily rising. An expert from US News explained that this was a result of a return to normalcy and a “lessening of safety precautions” when COVID-19 numbers were at their highest. After being warned for months about an incoming severe flu season, its arrival has rocked Florida State University (FSU) and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).
In fact, a mass email to FSU professors has asked that no one require students to get a doctor’s note or medical excuse from the health center due to the overwhelming number of ill students already swarming the place for the last couple of weeks. Amy Magnuson, FSU’s Health Services director, says they have over 20 new cases a day, which has steadily increased since Halloween and the recent change in weather surrounding north Florida.
Some professors have seen up to 40 percent of students missing from their classes, prompting some to propose transitioning to Zoom until the semester is over. Senior Claudia Estevez is concerned with falling behind in her classes and how it will affect her graduation timeline. “Right now, it’s crunch time for a student like me and I cannot afford to miss any days in my classes, or I risk losing what I’ve worked so hard for these last two years,” Estevez admitted.
FAMU has seen a record of 102 positive flu cases last Wednesday alone, causing Director of Health Services, Tanya Tatum, to be “concerned.” While the university has offered incentives for students willing to get the COVID-19 or flu vaccine, there has been a strong vaccine hesitancy amongst the Rattlers. One million dollars in cash prizes have been put aside for this project at FAMU, however, Tatum explained that there are many students who use the “I’ve never had the flu, so I’m not getting a vaccination” premise to argue their aversion to these immunizations.
Urgent care centers have also seen the effects of the flu, as they have run out of appointments for patients and are seeing extreme wait times for walk-ins as high as 655 minutes, nearly 11 hours long to see a doctor. Getting the medicine is just as bad as trying to be diagnosed with influenza, as Tamiflu, used to prevent and treat influenza virus infections, has run out in every pharmacy in Tallahassee. Students must rely on weaker drugs, such as Tylenol and DayQuil, to keep their symptoms down while battling the virus.
Dr. Nectar Aintablian, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, is reminding people not to forget about getting their flu shot, as the virus can be as deadly as COVID-19. The Tallahassee Democrat listed pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, that offer free flu shots and walk-in clinics with family physicians, as well as supermarkets like Publix, Walmart and Winn Dixie. Dr. Aintablian also urges those with flu-like symptoms to isolate and stay home, and those who have managed to dodge this illness to wear a mask, wash their hands and maintain social distancing with large crowds.