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Coronavirus Plus influenza could amount to a devastating fall and winter, says the CDC director

Summer has just begun, but health officials are already warning Americans that the coming autumn and winter months are likely to be difficult. Once the flu season begins, the United States will have to worry not about one, but two infectious viruses.

“The real risk is that we will have two respiratory pathogens circulating at the same time,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a TIME 100 Talks discussion with senior writer Alice Parco. “We know that flu alone can cause substantial morbidity, mortality and hospital use,”

; particularly for the elderly and those with underlying conditions. With the new coronavirus being wreaking havoc in these groups and others, “this could indeed be a very, very difficult situation.”

Getting a flu shot is one way to help prevent flu. But even though flu shots are safe and often effective enough, they are not very popular. “Historically, less than half of Americans receive flu shots,” said Redfield. “This is the year I ask the American public to seriously reconsider, because that decision could make a hospital bed available to someone else who really needs it for COVID.”

So far this summer, when states began to reopen, Redfield has said that more than 100 counties in the United States are “what we consider [coronavirus] hot spots “and” higher transmission rates than we would like to see. “In response, he said, the CDC is sending teams to those areas and is working with state and local health officials to understand how these cases are spreading and the best way to contain them.

Redfield also denied that the CDC was sidelined during the pandemic; in previous outbreaks, the CDC has taken a more visible role in holding press conferences to educate and answer questions from the public. “I would say no,” said Redfield in response to the fact that the agency took a back seat in driving the country through the pandemic. “We have a seat at the table in the {White House Coronavirus]Task Force in which I represent the CDC … and we are presenting these views and I can tell you that these views are listened to and those views are respected.

Right now, the tools that Americans have been using for months – spacing a meter and a half, wearing their faces, washing their hands regularly – are still the best protections against the contraction of the virus that causes COVID-19. But in the late 2020s or early 2021s, this arsenal could realistically include one or more coronavirus vaccines, Redfield said.

This is an incredibly fast timeline for a vaccine of this type, and three months ago, Redfield would have called him “highly optimistic”. Now, however, “I think there is a real chance that we will do it. Nobody can guarantee it, but the amount of progress made in the past few weeks is remarkable.”

This article is part of # TIME100Talks: Finding Hope, a special series with leaders in different fields who encourage action towards a better world. I want more? Sign up to access multiple virtual events, including live conversations with influential journalists.

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