BATON ROUGE, La. – Today marks the official start of fall, which is also the time of year when flu cases begin to appear. Given that this year the annual flu season will overlap with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana urges everyone to take steps to prevent the spread of illnesses.
“Get in touch with your healthcare provider now to ask about getting the flu shot if you have not already done so,” said Blue Cross Senior Medical Director Dr. Dee Barfield. “The flu shot is safe and effective, and more people getting vaccinated can prevent overwhelming our healthcare system as we are still treating COVID-19 cases.”
Although there is currently no available vaccine for COVID-19, the same preventive steps people have taken over the past several months can effectively lower the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, influenza virus and other respiratory illnesses, Barfield added.
“Whenever you leave home, wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth, keep at least six feet between you and others, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer,” Barfield said. “We are getting to the point in the year where seasonal illnesses peak, so it’s very important to be mindful of keeping ourselves healthy and avoiding making others sick.”
See health tips for what to do when you leave home in this video (1:01).
Comply with COVID-19 Prevention Mandates
In July, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statewide mandate that requires Louisiana residents to wear face masks in public places and restricts gatherings. The state has seen improvements in COVID-19 case rates since the order went into effect, and Gov. Edwards moved the state into Phase 3 of reopening on Sept. 11. But, the virus is still active in the state, and the statewide mandate remains in place to help slow the spread.
Blue Cross has created interactive graphics for its social media that encourage people to wear masks now so we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and safely resume activities like tailgating, going to festivals and having crawfish boils. Anyone can share or post these graphics to their personal social media and are asked to use the hashtag #MaskUp when doing so. Find and download the graphics at www.bcbsla.com/covid19. Blue Cross has also produced Spanish versions of the social graphics, which are available to download and share.
For Louisiana employers, Blue Cross has created an online, multimedia toolkit to address common questions and share information from medical directors as more business reopen and employees return to the workplace in Phase 3.
Get A Flu Shot
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older get a flu shot each year. It’s especially important for young children, pregnant women, adults 60+ years old and anyone who has chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease or asthma, as these groups are at a higher risk for severe complications from the flu.
While getting a flu shot is an important part of preventive wellness every year, it will be especially important this year, given the added threat of COVID-19 overlapping with flu season. Flu season typically begins in October and lasts until April or May, with cases peaking in late winter.
Most health plans and Medicare plans cover the annual flu shot for $0 or very low cost. Make an appointment with your primary care provider so you can get your flu shot as soon as possible.
Blue Cross Medical Directors Dr. Emily Vincent and Dr. Tracy Lemelle hosted a “Direct from the Doctors” Facebook Live event earlier this month to explain why it’s so important to get a flu shot this year. See a video of that event (25:31).
You can visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube page to see short videos with the clinical team and others discussing various health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can also connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates.
For information on what Blue Cross is doing for members during COVID-19, visit www.bcbsla.com/covid19.