CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday said rebounding Covid case counts gave her a sense of “impending doom” and warned the public to continue following public health precautions with more contagious strains of the virus taking hold.
“Right now I’m scared,” a visibly shaken Walensky said at a briefing during which officials warned the country is headed toward another surge with new cases topping 30 million in the U.S. and deaths once again averaging about 1,000 a day.
Walensky cited an uptick in travel as one reason cases could be rising, and noted more contagious variants could exacerbate the crisis if people don’t wear masks and follow other public safety guidelines.
The troubling signs come despite more than one-third of American adults now having received at least one Covid-19 shot. Some 50 million people are fully vaccinated, according to Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser on the Covid-19 response.
“It will be a race between a vaccine and what’s going on with the dynamics of the outbreak,” said White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci.
The details: Walensky has warned over the past few weeks about the apparent plateauing of the pandemic in the U.S., as infections hovered at about 50,000 a day. On Monday, she said the average over the past seven days is now clocking in at between 60,000 and 70,000 new cases per day, a 10 percent increase that points to a surge.
Deaths, which lag behind new cases and hospitalizations, were up 3 percent over the past week.
What’s next: Walensky said she’ll be speaking to governors this week about their reopening plans, making it clear she thinks some have lifted restrictions prematurely — although according to the CDC website, states recording the highest rate of infection aren’t all those that have relaxed their rules.
Biden administration officials on Monday didn’t lay out any new policy measures beyond urging of Americans to stay cautious and follow CDC guidelines. Walensky also warned that people should avoid unnecessary travel.
“I think people want to be done with this,” she said, adding: “The thing that’s different this time is we actually have it in our power to be done because of the scale of the vaccination.”