The pandemic has come with several side effects—the ability to crush a multi-season Netflix series in 48 hours, for example. Another one: It was a lot easier to stave off the flu this year, thanks to social distancing and mask-wearing. Flu season—which usually runs between late fall and early spring—typically results in a yearly average of up to 45 million cases, up to 810,000 hospitalizations, and up to 61,000 deaths, according to the CDC.
But numbers are far lower this year, according to reports, and at DC’s Children’s National Hospital, they were nonexistent during the pandemic. That’s right—at all of Children’s locations throughout the area, no patient has tested positive for the flu since March 2020.
This is especially significant when compared to the last few years: Children’s saw over 1,400 patients with the flu between fall 2019 and March 2020, and about 700 patients during the 2018-2019 and 2017-2018 flu seasons.
Xiaoyan Song, the hospital’s Director of Infection Control and Epidemiology, attributes the drop to mask-wearing and social distancing. “The abrupt disappearance of flu and other seasonal respiratory virus coincides with the timeline when governments around [the] DMV issued executive orders mandating people to only travel for essential business at the end of last March,” she wrote in an email to Washingtonian.
It also probably doesn’t hurt that folks were more conscious of staying away from others when they didn’t feel well, she wrote, as well as keeping distance from those who were coughing or sneezing.
And, perhaps by adopting these newfound practices, we can continue to keep flu numbers low even when we’re not in a pandemic. Song’s last message: “Keep up the good behaviors.”