This article appeared in WWMT. Read the story here.

Michigan prepared for this year’s flu season to hit while it continues battling COVID-19.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials urged Michiganders to get their flu vaccinations during a news conference Aug. 25, 2020.

“Preventing the flu will help us save lives and preserve the healthcare resources that we will need this fall to continue fighting COVID-19,” Whitmer said.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s top medical advisor, said during the 2019 flu season, only 31% of Michiganders older than six months received a flu vaccine. Khaldun said Michigan ranked 38 out of 50 states for flu vaccine rates in 2018.

Whitmer said the state is trying to greatly increase that number this season, so that Michigan doesn’t have to fight surges in two viruses at once.

Last flu season, 3.2 million Michiganders received a vaccine. The state’s goal this year is to increase that by more than 1 million people.

Khaldun said flu vaccines can prevent 40 to 60 percent of cases.

“And this is not a joke. I’m a practicing emergency medicine physician, and I’ve taken care of many patients who have battle the flu, and some have even lost their lives,” Khaldun said.

Whitmer drove the point home by receiving her flu vaccination on stage, she said, to show how easy it is.

The state plans to make vaccines more widely available at clinics, and possibly, even at COVID-19 testing sites, Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Hospital Association, said.

“Everyone is speculating today about when we’ll have an effective and widely available vaccine for COVID-19. When you talk about the flu, the reality is that tool is already in our toolbox today,” Peters said.

The association joined the state’s campaign of urging all Michiganders to get flu shots.

Peters warned it could be vitally important to hospitals.

“We are very concerned about the potential for a COVID surge at the same time as a flu surge here in the state of Michigan later this year. In that scenario, many of our hospitals could potentially fill to capacity,” Peters said.

Peters said the MHA is urging all hospitals to mandate and provide the flu vaccines for all hospital personnel.