Southern California braces for difficult flu season as cases rise after COVID lull
SANTA ANA — For people living in San Bernadino County, the end of summer means the end of freedom from the annual flu.
The county is particularly susceptible to the spread of the flu because many of its residents are elderly and have other health issues that can increase the likelihood of the illness spreading among them.
About 40 percent of the county’s residents are elderly, according to the latest census figures on the county’s health and the spread of the virus — which killed more than 1,400 people across the nation in June.
And although there have been no reports of cases spreading in San Bernadino, two deaths have occurred in the county in recent weeks, raising the specter of the deadly virus returning — much to the dismay of county officials and residents who are still trying to recover from the devastation that was the 2019-2020 flu.
Two deaths in three weeks was unheard of in the county since 1950, when a high of 11 illnesses and three deaths were recorded. That was three years before the country declared its first flu epidemic, according to Dr. Paul Bauschatz, president of the American Medical Association’s San Bernadino County chapter.
The peak is expected to arrive in December, Bauschatz said, when the number of cases is highest in the U.S.
“This is going to be the worst flu season in the last 50 years,” he said.
The reason is that people are staying home to avoid spreading the virus, and the virus’ ability to spread easily — even on the surface of social media — is increasing in many cases.
“You’re not going to walk into a crowded coffee shop, a park or an airport and just touch someone. You’re going to pick someone up and touch them or touch their surface,” he said. “It takes a little bit of time and practice, but it does happen — if you aren’t careful.”
Bauer is a retired Navy man who began coughing and having trouble breathing around Christmas after battling an illness for several months. He began to struggle with the flu in early January and took to the internet for advice.
He saw people getting tested for the flu, and it became clear that he needed to be tested.
“I didn’t know what I had nor did I want to know. I’d always known I was