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UCSF Dr. Peter Chin-Hong On COVID Delta Variant Surge: 'Desperate Measures Are Needed In Desperate Times'

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- UCSF Infectious Disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong believes the San Francisco Bay Area has reached a crossroads in the local battle against COVID's rapidly spreading delta variant, but his message for the path forward is relatively simple -- "it's vaccinate, not lockdown."

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all health care workers and state employees returning to their offices to either get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing, scrapping the honor system that was in place. San Francisco appears ready to follow Newsom's lead.

Chin-Hong said the honor system -- where employees did not have to provide proof of vaccination -- is not working.

"You see people institute mask mandates because just like with the vaccine requirements in the workplace for state workers -- the honor system is not necessarily working," he said.

As new cases begin rising in the Bay Area, new measures need to be taken, Chin-Hong said.

"Desperate measures are needed at desperate times," he told the KPIX 5 Morning News. "I think we are at a crossroads right now. I think we have seen more than a quadrupling of cases in the Bay Area in some localities. Hospitalizations are starting to trickle up. Fortunately, deaths have remained flat."

When asked if he thought the state and the Bay Area was heading toward a new lockdown, he said shutting down businesses again was not the answer to the current surge.

"It's simple but very, very hard to do which is vaccinate," Chin-Hong said. "Someone keeps on telling me, one of my colleagues, it's vaccinate, not lockdown. I don't think we are in the business of shutting down again hopefully because the hospitalizations are relatively still not measurable but that can change."

The new rule Newsom announced Monday will take effect early next month. There are at least 238,000 state employees, according to the California controller's office. Health officials couldn't immediately provide an estimate on the size of the health care workforce in the nation's most populated state.

Newsom said there was evidence that people are beginning to change course on their reluctance to get vaccinated.

"Here's the good news, last week, we saw a 16 percent increase in the number of people getting their first dose or receiving a J&J vaccine," said Newsom. "We are seeing as well an increase in people getting vaccinated in what we refer to as the healthy place index quartile one. Forgive me, I just lost 99 percent of you, but for the one percent who understand what I'm talking about that's the most vulnerable zip codes in the state of California, those are the communities most at risk. Communities most impacted by this pandemic."

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