MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – After spending a week in the hospital, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he regrets not wearing a mask at the White House.

Christie said he wasn’t careful for just a short period and it almost cost him his life.

As CBS2’s Nick Caloway reports, medical experts say that complacency about the COVID pandemic is dangerous for all of us, especially as the weather gets colder.

Christie says he took the virus seriously and always wore a mask – until late September, when he didn’t.

MORE: Chris Christie On COVID Battle: ‘I Was Wrong To Not Wear A Mask’

“I was doing it right for seven months and avoided the virus. I let my guard down for a couple of days inside the White House grounds. And it cost me in a significant way,” Christie said.

It landed Christie in intensive care for seven days.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Christie told Good Morning America he hopes his experience reminds people why masks and social distancing are so important.

He also urged every public official regardless of party to advocate for every American to wear a mask in public and socially distance, and to take the virus seriously.

Public health experts say Christie’s illness is a sobering reminder that letting your guard down, even briefly, can be devastating.

Watch Nick Caloway’s report —

“We’re starting to see some complacency. Because months have gone by, and people are saying ‘Well, I’ve been out and I haven’t gotten this.’ But this is a stark reminder that it can hit anyone at any time,” said Corey Basch, professor of public health at William Paterson University.

She said easing up on safety is a major public health challenge right now.

“When you look around and see other people let their guard down, possibly you assume that it’s time to just let yours down as well. And this is a perfect example of how that’s not the case,” she said.

That could be contributing to massive spikes nationwide. In the last day, at least seven states set records for infections.

It has been more than seven months since New Jersey recorded its first positive COVID-19 case. The state took an enormous blow, but then flattened the curve, thanks in part to masks.

MORERead Chris Christie’s Full Statement

“I have kids so I’d rather be safe than sorry and wear my mask,” said Montclair resident Dwayne Holman.

Now, with COVID fatigue sinking in, fears are mounting of a second wave.

“We need to suit back up again and take this extremely seriously,” said Montclair resident Allison Task.

Public health officials warn that cases are ticking up again. That could be disastrous entering flu season, and with the holidays approaching.

“For our practice and our community here in northern New Jersey, we’re beginning what I feel is a second wave,” Dr. Alexander Salerno, with Salerno Medical Associates, told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

Salerno says at one of his offices in Newark, they’re testing at least 40 people daily. Last week, he had 25 positives in one day compared to 25 positives in the entire month of August.

“This is not the same virus from March that it is today,” Salerno said. “It keeps changing and morphing … and it’s not so much the silent spreaders like we were seeing in the summertime now, but now we’re seeing symptomatic COVID.”

He says he’s not hopeful on a vaccine being the silver bullet.

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