Common cold and flu cases drop due to masks, distancing during COVID-19 pandemic

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One of the unexpected silver linings of mask-wearing and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a sharp drop off in the common colds and flu usually associated with winter, but health experts say it could rebound once the pandemic subsides.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado is Chief of Infectious Diseases at Lucille Packard’s Children’s hospital, and she told KCBS Radio that based on observations from the southern hemisphere, the drop was not entirely unexpected.

“People used to think, ‘Well we get colds because we go out into the cold weather and get a chill,’ but we’re still doing some of that…going out and working in the yard,” she said. “It’s really keeping people away from each other that’s preventing infections.”

Dr. Maldonado said that children not seeing each other also factors in to slowing the spread, especially among families.

But Maldonado and other health experts expect a rebound, as seen in Australia where cases of COVID-19 have dropped, while cases of the flu has soared.

“We, at some point, will go back to being around lots of people and maybe not masking and distancing,” she said. “And hopefully that won’t happen too soon because we’re not ready to take those masks off and stop distancing.”

Dr. Maldonado said that viruses are unpredictable, resilient and incredibly difficult to eliminate completely, adding that the size of that resurgence will likely depend on our own behavior.