Doctors call for vigilance as COVID-19 numbers spike, holidays on the horizon

"If people let their guard down, then hundreds of thousands of people are going to die before the vaccine comes out," one UCSF doctor says.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Spiking numbers have counties in the Bay Area hitting pause on re-openings, but will it be enough?

As we head into the busiest holiday months of the year, doctors issue a stern warning: Get complacent and we could lose the gains we've made in the last nine months.

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"As the virus becomes more prevalent in the community, the chances that a person sitting next to you at the dinner table or next to you in a store is infected, is higher than it was say, a month ago, so we've got to be super careful," said Dr. Robert Wachter, Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF.

New stats show Thanksgiving could see the most air travel since the pandemic was declared. United Airlines just added 1,400 new flights.

Add to that, Christmas and New Year celebrations on the horizon and dropping temperatures driving people indoors as numbers spike in the Bay Area and all over the country. It's a formula public health officials are extremely worried about, especially considering everyone's favorite holiday activity.

"Sit for many hours together with masks off because they're eating, that's about as worrisome a combination as you can imagine," said Dr. Wachter.



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"You kind of get behind the 8 ball and you get to the point of no return, once you start increasing, you start increasing exponentially," Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an epidemiologist at UCSF.

In the Bay Area, doctors are already on the lookout for spikes because of Halloween and election celebrations. The worry is that people are starting to get complacent, even as the virus remains as contagious as ever.

"The problem is the virus doesn't care and it was the same virus it was all along," said Dr. Wachter.

The other warning from both doctors is that a so-called third wave could be worse and last longer than the last two, which lasted about two months. One reason - that the holidays could see more people traveling from COVID-19 hot spots, into the Bay Area.

"If people let their guard down then hundreds of thousands of people are going to die before the vaccine comes out," said Dr. Wachter on the importance of staying on target.

RELATED: 11 counties move backward on CA reopening map

"Always the worst case scenario, for me, and what keeps me up at night is overrunning our hospitals and not having enough staff to take care of them, not enough ICU beds," said Dr. Chin-Hong.

The doctors say we must remain vigilant, and to remember that nine months into the pandemic, we still have a long way to go and a lot more to lose.

"The good news about vaccines means if we hunker down for another 6-8 months, we could be in a much much better place next year," said Dr. Wachter.

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