Worries surrounding new, highly transmissible COVID variants as public events take place

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From the White House to local hospital systems, the word is going around about the latest mutation of the coronavirus.

“There’s no question that we are in the midst of a surge,” said Dr. William Tseng, assistant area medical director for Kaiser Permanente.

Tseng said everyone should be stepping up their efforts to stay safe from the virus by masking, distancing — all the precautions we’ve become so familiar with over the last couple of years.

And Tseng said this current surge is likely much bigger than we can measure.

“The numbers that we have are the ones where we’re able to test. So there’s a lot of numbers that we can’t see at this point because a lot of them are positive when they test at home and they don’t let us know the results,” he said.

The latest surge is happening just as San Diego’s two biggest public events are about to unfold, in person. Pride is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people this weekend.

Then, just a week later, Comic Con descends on San Diego. Organizers are letting everyone know that strict rules will be in place.

Attendees, vendors, and everyone else will have to wear a mask at indoor events. The mask has to be visible outside of costumes. Verification of full vaccination status or proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours must be shown, and it’s all subject to change.

KPBS asked Pride organizers what measures they’re taking, but they didn’t respond by the time this story went to print.

“The statement has always been if you’re outside, you’re OK,” said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, chief medical officer for acute care operations at Scripps.

Sharieff said it is safer to be outside, but with these new, but it’s no time to let your guard down.

“With these variants being so infectious, we still have to be extra careful,” she said.

Dr. Sharieff said the number of people with Covid is climbing throughout the Scripps system, as with all hospitals in the county. We reached out to multiple people with the county health department for a comment. A spokesperson told us late on Tuesday afternoon no one was available.

Fortunately, we’re much better prepared now for an increase in cases. There are treatments like monoclonal antibodies and drugs like Paxlovid that are very effective.

But you can hear the concern in the voices of Doctors Sharieff and Tseng. Another surge is building and big events with lots of people will help fuel it.

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