Should you be hesitant about attending large New Year's Eve gatherings?

Cindy Bae Image
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Should you be hesitant about attending large NYE gatherings?
Hospitals continue to battle a trio of viruses, including RSV, flu and COVID-19.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With vaccines and boosters available nationwide, the thought of planning to ring in 2023 with others can come with hesitancy as hospitals continue to battle a "trio" of viruses, including RSV, flu and COVID-19.

"It's kind of difficult because no one really wants to wear masks anymore, and with New Year's and everything, it feels very difficult to gauge what feels right," Grey Ko said. "I feel like everyone has to just kind of make their own decisions at this point."

The looming threat of the so-called "tripledemic" is keeping healthcare workers on high alert ahead of the New Year as the demand for COVID-19 vaccines wanes and more people are hospitalized for COVID-19 across the Triangle.

As of Dec. 21, NCDHHS reports 19% of North Carolina's population got the updated (bivalent) booster.

"When it first came out, we were doing a ton," Person Street Pharmacy manager Emily Merrill said. "Everybody's getting tired of all the vaccines, having to keep up with it. But I do think the sickness ... has picked up worse and worse. We thought COVID was bad, this year has been absolutely terrible for illnesses."

However, the pharmacy's not entirely empty on Wednesdays when it offers the Moderna bivalent booster.

"I just felt like it was time to get a booster shot. I haven't had one for the Omicron variant," Liz Rosen said. "I felt like I should've gotten one a while ago and I just haven't gotten around to it."

Although the recommendation from health officials is no longer strictly "stay home, don't go out on New Year's Eve," getting vaccinated, or the bivalent booster is a preventative measure worth the safe gathering.

"Societally, we're past the point where we're going to tell everybody stay home, don't go out on New Year's Eve," WakeMed's Jessica Dixon said. "We know people are going to do that. But I think you have to be thoughtful about your own personal risk assessment."

WakeMed said as of Tuesday, 54 patients are hospitalized for COVID across its 970-bed system and of those 54 patients, six are receiving ICU care.

"We're starting to see COVID deaths again, we had gotten to where those were relatively rare just because the number of patients with COVID was so low, but we're starting to see more of those," infection prevention specialist Jessica Dixon said. "So our COVID numbers are definitely going up."

UNC Health has also seen an increase in the number of people being hospitalized, according to Dr. David Wohl.

"The people we're seeing here who are really sick are people who have not been vaccinated or who have not gotten the bivalent vaccine," Wohl said. "I do worry that what we're seeing now is a remnant from the Thanksgiving gatherings and now we're going to see a bump like we do every winter."

Wohl said although older people especially should be getting the bivalent vaccine, we should all be getting it because it does provide some protection from infection.

"It better protects us against the variants that are circulating now than the original vaccine," Wohl said. "It doesn't make sense not to level up and get the most potent vaccine we have."