Health Advice



You may be seeing small clusters of the flu or other ailments for the same reason COVID-19 is continuing to spread: 'Strict social distancing isn't in place'

Jessica Villagomez, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Health & Fitness

CHICAGO -- As Illinois continues testing for COVID-19, many people showing symptoms end up with negative results. Instead, they may have fallen ill with a common cold or the flu. While some people may wonder why they might catch a cold during this time of social distancing and hand washing, the answer is fairly simple, according to medical professionals.

Dr. Desler Javier, an internal physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, said that not everyone adheres to social distancing measures, contributing to cases of the flu and other respiratory illnesses.

"If everyone lived in a bubble no one would get a contagious disease," Javier said. "Unless everyone is social distancing 100% of the time, you're still going to get pockets of outbreaks."

Strict social distancing measures could ultimately curb both viruses, said Dr. Ben Singer, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"Social distancing isn't in place, that's the reason why COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S.," Singer said. "In regions of the country that choose to enact strict social distancing, the flu will have a hard time spreading, but as we see that is hard to do when things reopen."

Over the past week, the average number of deaths per day in the U.S. has climbed more than 25%, from 843 to 1,057, according to The Associated Press. Hard-hit states such as Florida on Wednesday reported 216 more deaths, breaking the single-day record it set a day earlier; Texas confirmed 313.


In Illinois, the state announced 1,772 new known cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the eighth straight day with more than 1,000 new cases.

"We're at a danger point," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference Thursday in Peoria, warning again that Illinois could be headed for a "reversal" in its reopening as the state continues to see a resurgence in coronavirus case numbers.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, doctors and health officials are also preparing for flu season. With similar symptoms and methods of transmission, doctors are readying for the upcoming influenza season, Singer said.

"Every year the flu has a large burden on the health care system, we have huge numbers, but if you add a pandemic on top of it it can become very concerning," Singer said.


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