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SPECIAL REPORT: Unmasking the Controversy

News 11's Jenny Day investigates COVID-19 vs. the flu

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - A year into the pandemic and the nation remains split, on how to overcome COVID.

The Centers for Disease Control now suggesting double masks, while others continue to downplay its seriousness, all together.

The World Health Organization still says the leading theory as to how one virus impacted everyone on planet Earth jumped from an animal to humans. The latest research showing it's very unlikely the Coronavirus came from a Chinese lab. That's just one area of contention though. Mask mandates, and comparing COVID to the flu are some of the others that have sadly led to a divide in our nation.

To date COVID-19 has infected more than 100 million people - and claimed the lives of more than two million people. For our region, Imperial County has lost close to 600 people, while Yuma County has surpassed 700.

"If you haven't been affected yet, you're lucky. We have watched it ravage our community. More than 700 people won't be at the dinner table, for Mother's Day, Father's Day - it's heartbreaking," Mika Naranjo said, from Yuma Regional Medical Center.

The intensive care unit at YRMC still carrying a heavy burden. Naranjo says we still have a ways to go and that includes wearing a mask, for quite a while longer. "Please keep your guard up. Wear it for others, you could be infected, you don't know. That's why prevention is better."

But many people have an issue with making masks mandatory - and would prefer it be a choice. Naranjo says, "We must all comply, in order to make a difference, and that masks need to be worn properly."

As for those who compare COVID to the flu, there is simply not a lot of trust out there. Trust in our government, trust in our healthcare officials and sadly trust in the media.

COVID comes from the Coronavirus. The flu comes from the influenza virus - so to start -- these are two completely different viruses - however both do affect the respiratory system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu appears within one to four days after exposure. COVID can take two to 14 days. COVID often elicits a more severe illness. COVID is more contagious and more deadly.

"There were 36,000 flu cases in the state last year. Currently in Yuma County, we are at two. There were 800 deaths across the entire state and with COVID, we have already passed 13,000," Naranjo said.

The CDC estimates that in the 2018–2019 season an estimated 35 million people got sick with the flu and 34,00 deaths were reported. Again, 34,000 flu deaths last flu season, while 468,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID.

We are also learning that in addition to the lungs, COVID can attack the heart, brain, sense of smell and taste.

"Flu admission is usually pretty short term. Maybe you need oxygen, but with COVID, these are much sicker patients. They rapidly decline and are in need of intubation - commonly called life support because the lungs can't work on their own," Naranjo added.

According to the CDC, there are only 155 confirmed cases of flu hospitalizations so far this season. So maybe all of the precautions we're taking are proving to help in other ways.

"Hand hygiene, sanitizer in every store, distancing - masks, a lot of people do the right thing, and that has helped us. It's a pretty non-existent flu season. Not out of the woods yet though, it's still early," said Naranjo.

A lot of people online also had questions about why even after you're fully vaccinated, do you still have to wear a mask? The reason for that once again is to protect others - not yourself. Even if you're fully vaccinated, and have no symptoms whatsoever you could still have and spread COVID. So while we are all exhausted by it, health officials say we must find it in our hearts to be selfless, for the greater good.

"One of the best stories was having one of our ICU patients recover and walk out of here. It gave us hope. That's something we want for every patient," Naranjo said.

Join us Thursday on News 11's Early Edition for Jenny Day's full report.

Special Reports / Video / Yuma County / Yuma County Coronavirus
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Jenny Day

You can catch Jenny Day anchoring KYMA News 11 at 5, 6, and 10 p.m. weekdays.


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