Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Mandy Cohen urged people to stay home if they are feeling sick as new variants of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses circulate.
“Right now, flu, COVID, and RSV are spreading in most of the country,” Cohen said in a recorded video message posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday. “I know it’s hard, but if you’re feeling sick, please stay home. Avoid spreading germs to others, especially your loved ones who are at higher risk of getting very sick.”
Spread cheer this holiday season — not germs! Check out our tips for staying healthy. pic.twitter.com/WhEdP8UoR1
— Mandy K. Cohen, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) December 22, 2023
Three respiratory viruses, which some public health officials have labeled a “tripledemic,” have surged since the end of November and have continued to increase through this month.
The most recent COVID-19 variant, JN.1, is estimated to account for 44% of the infections of the disease across the United States but is accounting for a higher concentration, 57%, of cases in the Northeast, including New York and New Jersey.
The World Health Organization designated JN.1 as a “variant of interest” on Tuesday. So far, public health authorities have not determined the new strain is more severe than prior variants, but it may be more transmissible.
Data from early WHO studies on JN.1 indicate that it poses “higher immune evasion” compared to its parent strain BA 2.86, the viral strain that worried public health officials this summer. At this point, public health officials are still considering the current vaccines to be effective against JN.1.
The CDC, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Health and Human Services have increasingly urged the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the flu, and RSV heading into the holiday season. Vaccination rates, however, have remained low for all three diseases.
Cohen strongly recommended that people who are feeling sick get tested early so that treatment can be administered quickly, especially for those who are at a higher risk of developing severe complications.
“Getting tested and treated early can prevent you from getting severely sick and could save your life,” Cohen said.
Cohen also stressed that government-provided at-home COVID-19 tests are available at COVIDtest.gov.
“We have treatments for flu, for COVID, for pneumonia, but you have to know what you have so you can get the right treatment,” she said.