Travel boom threatens COVID-19 recovery: doctor

Dr. Andre Campbell, UCSF & ICU Professor of Surgery, Physician and Trauma Surgeon at Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco, joins Kristin Myers and Brian Cheung of Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest information on the coronavirus.

Video transcript

BRIAN CHEUNG: As the vaccine rollout continues, there are concerns about where we are in the race against time as a boost in cases raises the possibility of a fourth wave of COVID. So let’s dive a little deeper into this topic with Dr. Andre Campbell. He is professor of surgery at UCSF and trauma surgeon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Dr. Campbell, you and I are both in California, where the case count was completely removed early this spring. But there is concern that something from the East Coast is coming back here. There are these new variations. So what is really the nationwide risk of a fourth wave at this point?

ANDRE CAMPBELL: Well, thank you for having me here today. It’s great to be here with you. So the first thing is we had a big wave after the Christmas holidays. And what happened is we’re actually pretty suppressed in California. But there is actually growing concern that a few days ago the Stanford lab just found a dual variant, which is very similar to the Indian variant that is fueling the 100,000 cases they have in India.

So we are worried about the South African variant, the English variant, the Brazilian variant, the B117, which worries us to fuel the new rise. So there is an increase in cases in New York, New Jersey, Michigan. There are actually, I think, cases on the rise in Florida after all the spring break activity. So we’re really worried about it.

So the message is that the light is at the end of the tunnel. But we have to be vigilant now, especially now, because in the last three days, 6 million people have traveled. A year ago it was 500,000. As we start to mix and open up, we can’t open up too quickly. And we’re very worried that this new variant is fueling things. Because the new cases concern people aged 30 and under. This is what is happening in Michigan. Young people, who are a less affected or less affected group than the elderly, are affected by this new variant.

KRISTIN MYERS: So, doctor, imagine that with older people who get vaccinated, with these new variants that increase the likelihood of being hospitalized, of having more severe complications of this disease, which we’re going to see a lot of basically 20 and 30-year-old children in hospitals may even be at risk of dying within the next two months? Is that what you’re saying here? Because I think a lot of young people at home could be really worried and worried if they heard this news.

ANDRE CAMPBELL: So, first of all, the new wave, which we’re hoping to stop, first of all, by doing the same – social distancing and masking and hand washing – we can stop it, that’s right, like more people who are under 40 and under, so that’s something we need to be concerned about. Because young people are now strongly affected by this new wave. That’s what’s going on in Michigan, so we want to make sure they get vaccinated. We are therefore in a race with a vaccine.

Right now we are vaccinating 4 million people a day, right, which is great, right? What if we could get to the point where we can vaccinate our way out of this, we’ll beat the variants, right? It’s a real race. 4 million a day, 120 million a month, that’s right – by May and June, things will be better if we continue to be vigilant. So that’s really the message, is that the bifurcated lights at the end of the tunnel.

But we must be careful because the youngest are now affected. The vaccine keeps you from dying, keeps them in the ICU, doesn’t it? This is what you need to get vaccinated if you get the chance. So three of them ready that are available right now, the Pfizer is what I took, the second was the Moderna, and the third is the one shot and done, the Johnson & Johnson. Get vaccinated whenever you can.

BRIAN CHEUNG: And quickly, it looks like there is CDC messaging that has rubbed some people the wrong way. They were sort of – the CDC said things like, we’re afraid of the possibility of this fourth wave, that there could be a dire situation around the corner, despite the vaccine rolling out. What do you think is the appropriate communication for the CDC at the present time where, on the one hand, yes, people are getting vaccinated, but yes, these variants have their own downside risk?

ANDRE CAMPBELL: So last week you probably saw Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, she got very emotional talking about an almost apocalyptic scenario. So the quick message is that I think we have good information. We have a safe vaccine. Let’s push this. But we have to be vigilant because if we don’t, we will be right back to what we were after Christmas. And at the moment, in San Francisco, we only have seven people in the COVID hospital. In my hospital, we had 70 people with COVID just a month ago. And we had, you know, 10 or 11 in the intensive care unit or 12. So it’s all gone now, right? And that’s because of vigilance.

And thanks to this, we were able to remove the virus. When you remove the virus, we’ll be fine. If we keep reviving things too soon – like, you know, when I saw what was going on in Miami Beach last month, I was mortified. I mean, all those thousands of kids partying without a mask, I was mortified. So we can’t do that, can we? If we do this we’ll be in trouble, right? If we can maintain prudent behavior, we can do it. We control what can happen. And we can make this thing go away if we work together.

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