As people spend more time indoors with school starting and weather changing, North Central Public Health District recommends taking protective steps to prevent respiratory illnesses. NCPHD and Hood River County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Van Tilburg says the area is seeing a rise in COVID cases, which is coming with the start of flu season and RSV season. Van Tilburg notes although many do not become seriously ill, certain people are vulnerable to serious life threatening illness from these viral infections. He says the best protection is easy: wash hands, limit exposure to crowds in enclosed spaces, stay home when ill, and get vaccinated. Other protective options include wearing a well-fitted mask in crowded areas, and improving ventilation in your home or work area. Vaccines are available for all three of these infections. An RSV vaccine was approved in May for those 60 and older. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, as is the updated COVID vaccine, which targets the predominant strain now in circulation. The federal government has also announced that every American household is again eligible to receive four free at-home COVID test kits delivered to their home. For more information, visit covid.gov/tests.