SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- While monkeypox has been a major health issue gripping the attention of the public and health officials, a group of Bay Area doctors says they are warning people not to forget about the threat COVID-19 continues to pose.
They say hospitalization rates and deaths will only increase as we get closer to winter.
The world has come a long way since the earliest days of the pandemic when little was known about COVID-19 and when vaccines were a distant possibility.
But local doctors from the Peninsula Health Care District fear we're getting too comfortable.
"Part of what we've been told is that 'COVID is mild now, so it doesn't matter. People aren't being hospitalized, so it's okay to go ahead and get it,' and this is wrong," said Dr. Kim Rhoads. Rhoads works as an associate professor at UCSF's School of Medicine but said at Thursday's press conference that she speaks as a community organizer.
She says any messaging that more COVID treatment makes it less dangerous is wrong.
On ABC's "The View," Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pointed to the progress made since the start of the pandemic and since President Joe Biden came into office.
"Right now you can get a vaccine. You can get boosters," she said during segment, "You can get the treatment -- the same treatment that the president had, which is paxlovid."
However, Rhoads says, locally, it's not that simple.
"As a prescribing provider, I just want to say on the first paxlovid prescription that I had to make, I had to call three different pharmacies," Rhoads said, "That was hard for me. Imagine how hard it would be for the person who actually needs paxlovid."
PHCD doctors say that throughout the summer, many of us have gotten used to being without mask mandates.
But with BA.5 and the possibility of other variants emerging, they say we're setting ourselves up for a dangerous winter.
"We're all going to be inside. It's going to be cold. You're not going to want to open the windows or the doors. We're all going to be gathering for the holidays and that's when this is going to go out of control," Rhoads said, "Is it going to be a variant that is resistant to our vaccines? Cause more disability? We don't even know."
PHCD doctors also say that they feel mask mandates won't be effective because public health officials implement them, but can't enforce them.
They say right now better messaging from government and education on proper masking will be key to keeping communities safe.
"Know that BA.5 doesn't care if you're wearing a cloth mask or surgical mask," Rhoads said, "You need to be wearing a KN95, a KF94 or an N95."
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