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Doctor: 'These viruses are built to mutate'

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Dr. Andre Campbell, Professor of Surgery of UCSF & ICU Physician and Trauma Surgeon Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down the latest coronavirus developments, as mass vaccination efforts continue.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Let's chat now about the coronavirus pandemic. There's nearly 25 and 1/2 million cases of coronavirus in the United States. And President Biden is facing a lot of pressure to make good on promises to speed up the vaccination process. So we're joined now by Dr. Andre Campbell, professor of surgery at UCSF and an ICU physician and trauma surgeon at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Doctor, always great to have you with us. Starting on that point of vaccinations, I'm wondering if you think that the president is perhaps a little bit overly ambitious in what he says that he can deliver-- up to 2 million vaccinations daily. That is a huge bump from where we are right now.

ANDRE CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, thank you for having me today. And it's great to be here. I have to say that I'm excited that they have very ambitious goals after what you can say is a failed rollout by the previous administration in anybody's estimation. So that I think that you have to say-- he said 1.5 to 2 million, but there are folks who are saying, well, maybe we should be at 3 million a day, which is quite even more ambitious. So that's double that.

Now, you know, whether we get there now, we're at about a million a day or so of vaccinations, and we've vaccinated 6% of the population. The goal is, you know, to innoculate 240 million people. All right, so we're at 6%. We need to be closer to 70%, 75%. So we have a long way to go. So the more we can innoculate early means that we can then get ahold of this because everybody's worried about these variants that you're hearing about from South Africa, England. You know, we have a California variant. There's variants everywhere.

But the reality is, remember, these viruses are built to mutate. That's how they're built, right? And the quicker we can get people inoculated is the better as we go forward. So, ambitious, yes. Possible? I am very hopeful for that because we're moving finally in a positive direction.

KRISTIN MYERS: Looking at that chart there, doctor, we can see that the cases are, in a positive way, coming down. Where would you say we are in this battle against COVID-19? Are we winning? Is the tide turning? Or are we essentially waiting for another spike?

ANDRE CAMPBELL: So, it is good. I mean, in California, we're coming down. As you probably know, we had a big run. We had a surge and a surge related probably to the post-Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's travel, where a million people were traveling. 14 million people traveled in a week or so. So we're sitting at a bump, and now we're beginning to come down. So I'm encouraged by that.

But, you know, many folks who say maybe darker days are ahead if we move too fast. There's a lot of projections that if restrictions are lifted too early, you know, meaning things open fast, that we may have another bump. But remember, this vaccine-- this virus is very infectious. And the more we release things is the better.

So the basic thing is the masking, distancing, you know, washing your hands, keep away from your face, not traveling. These are things that we're going to have to do, even with more people vaccine. Because remember, you can get vaccinated, but you can still spread the disease, right, even though you may be asymptomatic. So that masking will be with us for quite a long period of time. And what we want to do is make sure the timing of things are good.

KRISTIN MYERS: Speaking of restrictions and the fact that you are in the state of California, Governor Gavin Newsom actually lifting some of those stay-at-home orders. I was a little bit surprised to see that news, considering how badly hit your state has been. Do you think there should be more restrictions, either on a state level and in a state like California, or even more restrictions on a national and federal level?

ANDRE CAMPBELL: Well, I think the restrictions have to be done individually by different areas. And it really depends on what the positivity rate is. So our positivity rate actually in California has gone down to about 6% to 8%. So that's actually better than it was. Our ICU capacity, which is one of the things we look at, we went from having 5% ICU capacity in California to now that number is up to 20% to 25% capacity in northern California.

So what we're trying to do is make sure it's individual because I don't think there's a one size fits all, right? But what we're hoping is we're beginning to come down. So at one point, we had 130,000 people or so hospitalized with COVID throughout the whole country. Not that number's about 106,000, so that number is actually coming out. We're very encouraged by that. But we cannot let our guard down because every time we let our guard down, this virus will rear its ugly head and come back on us, and we'll have another surge.

KRISTIN MYERS: I have about 30 seconds left with you here, doctor. So I want to ask you about another piece to that, which is travel, folks traveling both internationally and domestically, bringing back, as you mentioned, some of those variants. Wondering what you make of these possibilities of requirements of a negative COVID test for domestic travel, or even perhaps down the line, if we should be pushing for COVID vaccine requirements to get on a plane.

ANDRE CAMPBELL: Well, that's an interesting topic because there's a lot of discussion about it. But I think having a negative COVID coming into the country, I think that's probably a good idea. You know, they were talking about having things on your phone like having a COVID passport, where you know that you've been vaccinated. I mean, I'm fortunate that I've been vaccinated. I've had two vaccinations and happy to have them. I'm relieved, but I still have my guard up with doing things.

But I think having some restrictions will help with this spread of the variants. Because what we're trying to do, we're still trying to get control. The house is on fire. The country is on fire. What we're trying to do a stop the fire. And all these things are part of the ways to stop the fire from spreading because we don't want it to get any worse than it is.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Dr. Andre Campbell, professor of surgery at UCSF and an ICU physician and trauma surgeon at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. As always, thank you so much for joining us today, doctor.

ANDRE CAMPBELL: Great to be with you. Thank you so much.