Story at a glance

  • “It might be that the mask wearing, the physical separation, avoiding crowds, the hand washing that we’re doing now for COVID might really blunt the flu season, and we hope that that’s the case in the sense of less flu infections,” Fauci said.
  • The public health expert also explained that during the 2009 swine flu outbreak, H1N1 “bumped” the flu, becoming the dominant strain during flu season.
  • Some health officials, however, have warned of a double whammy of flu cases and COVID-19 infections coinciding in the fall as the pandemic surges on.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been urging everyone to wear masks, social distance, avoid large gatherings and wash their hands in an effort to curb the coronavirus pandemic that has infected nearly 5 million Americans. 

And while the coronavirus is showing little sign of slowing down and is likely to be with us in the fall, the nation’s top infectious disease expert says the precautions he’s recommended to the whole world over the past several months might help us mitigate the deadly flu season. 


America is changing FASTER THAN EVER. Add Changing America to your Facebook and Twitter feeds to stay engaged on the latest news and smartest insights.


“It might be that the mask wearing, the physical separation, avoiding crowds, the hand washing that we’re doing now for COVID might really blunt the flu season, and we hope that that’s the case in the sense of less flu infections,” Fauci said during a webinar with Alliance for Health Policy Thursday. 

The public health expert also explained that during the 2009 swine flu outbreak, H1N1 “bumped” the flu, becoming the dominant strain during flu season. 

“So it is conceivable that if you have COVID of any extent, you might have two reasons to have less flu: one, because you're doing the kinds of things public health—masks, etcetera—and two, it might get bumped out by COVID,” Fauci said. 

Some health officials, however, have warned of a double whammy of flu cases and COVID-19 infections coinciding in the fall as the pandemic surges on. 

“I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health,” Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said last month during a webinar with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

On average, between 9 and 45 million Americans become ill with the flu annually, leading to anywhere between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually. The CDC estimates that between Oct. 1, 2019 to April 4, 2020, there have been 39 to 56 million influenza infections and approximately 24,000 to 62,000 deaths. 

But Fauci was optimistic, saying he is hopeful both the flu and COVID-19 will be down in the fall. 

“Vaccination for flu, public health measures for flu and COVID, would have us be in the situation where both the flu season is blunted and we have very little COVID,” he said.

Published on Aug 07, 2020