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Dr. Gupta Just Gave This Sober COVID Warning

If the country were his patient, we'd still be in the ICU.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Although coronavirus cases are going down, we are still in the "storm of the virus," warns Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He appeared last night on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and issued some perspective about how you can stay safe and we can all remain "pandemic proof," as he calls it in his new book, World War C: Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One. Read on for five essential pieces of life-saving advice from Dr. Gupta—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Dr. Gupta Warned We Are Still in the "Storm of the Virus" But There are Some "Positive Indicators"

Female and male doctors wearing masks and uniforms are visiting to check the symptoms of middle-aged female patients lying in bed.

Colbert asked Gupta where are we at with the pandemic. "It is hard and there's a great amount of humility I think you have to have, and trying to predict where things are going," said Dr. Gupta. "But what I would say is that we're in the storm of virus. We can't see the virus. If you could see it, there's still a lot of virus out there in the community, but there's a lot of positive indicators as well. There's some clear skies ahead. Numbers are falling." He added: "I've often thought about the country as my own patient. This is how I think about things. And I think if I was talking to the family of the patient, I'd say the patient is still in the intensive care unit, but we are getting ready to maybe move the patient out of the ICU onto the general care floor. There's some positive indicators here—case rates coming down, hospitalizations coming down. And what you also see from looking at other countries around the world, and even historically, that after this surge, which we're in right now, which has been, it's been really tough. I mean, I've always been honest with you about that. It's been really tough, but after the surge, usually it flattens out and hopefully it stays down."


Dr. Gupta Mentioned One Big Benefit of Vaccination You May Not Have Considered

Woman coughing in her elbow in grocery store.

Colbert is vaccinated and asked if he'll therefore, upon infection, carry a lower viral load than someone who is unvaccinated. "Your chance of getting infected because you're vaccinated—even a breakthrough infection is much, much lower than an unvaccinated person," said Dr. Gupta. "Maybe that inherently makes sense, but it's about 8 to 10 times lower. So the idea that you'd even carry the virus at all is a lot lower. If you do carry the virus, you could develop another virus in your nose and your mouth for a period of time, that is similar to an unvaccinated person. So I can be contagious. But it comes down much faster as well. So an unvaccinated person can be contagious for seven to 10 days. Whereas for you, it might be two to three days."

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Dr. Gupta Said This to Anyone Who Remains Unvaccinated

Patient refuses to take vaccination.

Dr. Gupta was asked about medical professionals not getting vaccinated. "To be perfectly honest with you," said Dr. Gupta, "there's times that I've sat in my basement and literally screamed at the top of my lungs. I mean, it's hard to fathom, when this is available and it could really help end this collective trauma we've been going through. But what I would say is healthcare workers are subjected to the same ideological pressures that everybody else. In fact, it sort of tracks with the vaccine hesitancy in the population —20 to 30%." He mentioned a man who came by to fix his A/C the other day. "Guy, probably in his mid seventies, really nice guy wore a mask. He fixed the air conditioning. I didn't know if he knew who I was. I was walking out and he apparently knew who I was. Cause he said, can I ask you a question? So sure. He goes, should I get a vaccine? And I said, yeah, absolutely. He said, the reason I asked, because I got a stent in my leg and I was, I thought maybe that would cause blood clotting. And I didn't know if that'd be a problem. I said, well, you're right. There was headlines on blood clotting and the vaccines. But I got to tell you if you're 80 times more likely to develop blood clots from the disease versus the vaccine, he said, oh, thank you." The man told Gupta: "The reason I ask is because my daughter died of COVID last week. And the last thing she said to me before she went on the ventilator was please get vaccinated. But then I've been worrying about this clotting thing. And I call my doctor and my doctor hadn't called me back. And you're the first person I saw. So I'm asking you. Said Gupta of this story: "It broke my heart. And it made me realize that I think I'm a pretty empathetic guy, but I think there's this tendency to say those anti-vaxxers," well, there are "some people who still have legitimate, legitimate concerns. And you know, I hope we, I really hope we reach those folks."

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Dr. Gupta Said This About Boosters

Nurse holding syringe

"I haven't gotten the booster," said Dr. Gupta. "The boosters are really recommended for people over the age of 65 and who have pre-existing conditions. There may be a situation where ultimately they'll recommend it more widely, but I think for now I'm happy that I got the vaccine. The vaccine works really well."

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Dr. Gupta Said Here's How to Be "Pandemic Proof"

Virus experts are working using microscope in laboratory with protective suit, gloves glasses and mask

How to become pandemic proof? "Part of it is just looking at this idea of almost a Department of Defense sort of model," said Dr. Gupta. "We think about these pandemics as sort of these naturally occurring weather events almost say, you know, 'It's all preordained. There's not much you can do about it.' But when you go back, even to 2004, we had a pandemic preparedness plan in this country. It was kind of remarkable. And they even put a price tag on it, about 30 bucks per citizen could make us pandemic proof—finding viruses in hard to reach areas, creating universal vaccines, bolstering up our public health system, doing all these things that would actually really turn this thing from a emerging pathogen, not let it be turned into a pandemic and that it was the price tag. Given what U.S. budgets are like, this is about nine and a half million dollars. Since 2004, the money gradually sort of went away. I mean, people do not like investing in prevention. 'Hey, it may never happen. Why are we throwing $10 billion away every year?' But I do think if we just say, Hey, look, let's treat this like defense. We'll just kind of, we're going to do this." In the meantime, get vaccinated, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek