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'We'll have another difficult winter': experts warn flu season will complicate pandemic

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Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist gets a flu shot.

COVID-19 cases are dropping but the pandemic is not over.

Dr. Jennifer Clark of OSU’s Project ECHO says a mix of COVID and flu will likely cause another winter surge but there’s not a clear picture for that situation.

“We’ll have another difficult winter in that COVID and flu and other seasonal illnesses will have to co-exist. We don’t know what that’s going to look like,” said Clark.

Executive Director of the Tulsa Health Department Dr. Bruce Dart said one way to prevent overwhelming hospitals again this winter is to continue masking. He pointed to last season’s low flu numbers.

“We didn’t have as much circulation. I’ll be honest, I really attribute that to masks. I know right now we’re not seeing as many people mask as we did last year. I really want to urge people to continue to mask so we can avoid the potential of both COVID and flu surging through our communities,” said Dart.

Dart spoke at a public vaccination event for community leaders. He was joined at Hillcrest Hospital Wednesday morning by Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist as well as representatives from the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners. Louie Achooie, a mascot for children, also made an appearance.

Louie Achooie got a pretend first dose of COVID vaccine, while Dart and the others received real flu vaccines in front of media crews.

As well as getting vaccinated and masking, Dart said people should still pay attention to social distancing this winter.

“That’s just the reality that we’re in,” Dart said.