"Now knowing what I know, people are crazy that they don’t want to just wear a mask and wash their hands."By Amy Wadas

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – As we approach Christmas and New Year’s, there’s concern about another surge upon a surge as people across the country gather to celebrate. A local couple who recently had COVID-19 is urging people against that and to play it safe so you don’t end up in the hospital during a time when hospitals are filling up fast.

Vicki and Tom Straub spent time at Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights after testing positive for COVID-19.

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“I will never go back into the hospital. I’ve determined that,” said Vicki Straub.

That’s how Vicki of New Kensington feels after she spent a week in the hospital with the virus. She just got out a little over a week ago.

“I consider myself a fairly active person so to do this to me was mental as well as physical. I was out of my mind,” said Vicki.

Her husband Tom, an EMT and volunteer firefighter in New Kensington, spent a few days in the hospital not long before that. Neither person was on a ventilator but did need oxygen to help them breathe during their stay.

“When our oxygen level started to drop, it was a very scary event. You go into the hospital — no visitation,” said Tom. “The caregivers are coming in. You’re there by yourself most of the time. A lonely time and scary time.”

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The exception was some texts and Zoom calls Vicki had with her family while she was battling the virus.

“I’ve been careful, tried to obey the rules. Now knowing what I know, people are crazy that they don’t want to just wear a mask and wash their hands,” said Vicki.

The couple is also urging people to reconsider getting together with loved ones this holiday.

“Just understand what those ramifications are. If you are out there having a few drinks with friends not practicing safely, you can wind up bringing this home to your family,” said Tom.

The couple said they are still trying to get their energy back and Tom said he doesn’t plan on going back to work until he gets the vaccine.

First responders are part of Pennsylvania’s phase 1B vaccine distribution plan.

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health says the vaccine is recommended for people who have sufficiently recovered from having the virus. If it’s been more than 30 days since you tested positive for COVID-19 and aren’t haven’t significant symptoms, you would be eligible to get vaccinated.