LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Health experts are warning of a potential “twin-demic” this flu season as many start to relax on safety guidelines more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials believe that last year’s flu numbers were likely lower because most people were following COVID-19 precautions, however, now that mask mandates have become optional, they are cautious about this year’s numbers.

One doctor says without mask mandates in every school, there might be a significant spread of the flu compared to last year, which could be bad news for hospitals.

“Lots of people go to the hospital with COVID and then a bunch more people have to go to the hospital with the flu and that will overly burden the hospital and they won’t be able to deal with it very well,” Arkansas Department of Health physician Dr. Joel Tumlison said.

Dr. Tumlison says he feels more people are masking up now than even a month ago, with COVID-19 cases on the rise, but to avoid a rough flu season, it’ll take more people doing their part.