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Gregory Bull, Associated Press
Donnie Cardenas, right, waits in an emergency room hallway alongside roommate Torrey Jewett, left, as he recovers from the flu at the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. The San Diego County resident said he was battling a heavy cough for days before a spike his temperature sent him into the emergency room.
NEW YORK — Flu is now widespread in every state except Hawaii, but the good news is the season appears to already be peaking.
It’s been a rough few weeks: Hospitals have set up tents to handle patient overflow. Doctors are putting in double and triple shifts. Ambulances have been sidelined while paramedics waited to drop off patients.
“This morning, I couldn’t stand up. I was really weak,” said Margaret Shafer, who went to a Seattle emergency room this week after a bout with the flu was followed by pneumonia.
But an update out Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows patient traffic for flu is no longer skyrocketing the way it was in December.
“It looks like it’s starting to level out,” said the CDC’s Lynnette Brammer, who oversees flu tracking.
Still, flu is unpredictable. “I don’t know where it will end up,” she added.
Many flu seasons don’t really get going until around Christmas, and don’t crescendo until February. That’s how last year’s flu season played out. This season got off to an early start and cases surged over the holidays.
Patients who went to the ER at Palomar Medical Center Escondido, north of San Diego, then had to wait as long as nine…