BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts is urging residents to get their flu shot this year, saying it is particularly critical during the coronavirus pandemic because symptoms can be so similar.

Gov. Charlie Baker said healthcare workers have warned that a flu and COVID-19 surge in Massachusetts at the same time would be an “incredibly difficult situation for them to manage their way through.”

“To all of those folks in Massachusetts who admire, respect, and appreciate the heroic work that was done by so many people in our health care community last spring – that for them and for yourselves – you should go out and get a flu vaccine this year, so that you and they can feel confident that as they deal with respiratory issues this fall and the potential of a second surge,” said Baker.

In August, Baker announced that all students in Massachusetts will be required to get a flu vaccine before the end of the year. Several dozen parents protested the announcement outside the State House.

“I know some people are troubled by the fact that, given the authority we have under state law, we mandated that kids and college students get a vaccination this year,” Baker said. “But I have to come back to the message that came from a community that really put themselves on the line for the people here in Massachusetts at the end of last winter and through the spring.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said in 2019, there were 40,000 reported cases of influenza, 55,000 emergency room visits, and 6,600 deaths.

“Many flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19, and preventing the flu will not only save lives, but it is good public health, as it preserves critical hospital medical resources to deal with the COVID pandemic,” she said.

Baker’s flu shot message came during a visit to CVS in Roslindale.

The pharmacy recently announced it is opening 12 new coronavirus testing locations at CVS pharmacies in Massachusetts. For a complete list, visit the CVS website.

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