Alarm bells are ringing and red flags are flying for Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as she senses “impending doom” as the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise amid a possible fourth wave, as the White House announced new actions.
An emotional Walensky's voice broke during a briefing on Monday, March 29 as she cautioned Americans not to get complacent as a new wave of the virus could hit the country.
“I’m (going to) lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” she said from the White House. "We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I’m scared.
“I know what it’s like as a physician to stand in that patient room, gowned, gloved, masked, shielded, and to be the last person to touch some else’s loved one because their loved one couldn’t be there,” she continued. “And I know what it’s like to pull up to your hospital every day and see an extra morgue sitting outside.”
Walensky said that she was concerned that the country could follow in the steps of some across the ocean in Europe, where some countries have contended with new surges of COVID-19 cases after reopening too much of the economy too quickly.
According to the CDC, the number of COVID-19 cases reported is on the rise, to approximately 60,000 new cases each day, a 10 percent increase from a week ago. Hospitalizations and virus-related fatalities have also seen an uptick in the past seven days.
There have now been more than 30 million laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in America since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
“The trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looks similar to many other countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy, and France looked like just a few weeks ago,” she said. “And since that time those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases.”
Following Walensky’s impassioned plea, President Joe Biden called on governors, mayors, and other lawmakers to maintain or reinstate mask mandates, saying “reckless behavior” has led to a new spread of COVID-19.
Hours after Walensky spoke, Biden directed his COVID-19 team to ensure that there was a vaccination site within five miles of 90 percent of Americans within three weeks. When prompted about whether states should slow down on reopening, the president said that they should.
“People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing,” he said. “We are giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains.”
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has also cautioned about opening up certain businesses and parts of the economy too early as the country continues to combat the spread of the virus.
“If we open up completely now, that is premature, given the level of infection" currently seen in the U.S.,” he said, adding that the warmer weather "gives us the urge to just cut loose. We’ve got to hang in there a bit longer.”
The CDC director, saying that she was speaking “not as just the CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter,” encouraged Americans to continue following suggested COVID-19 protocols “a little longer” until the bulk of the country has received their vaccines.
“We are not powerless,” she said. “We can change this trajectory of the pandemic, but it will take all of us recommitting to following the public health prevention strategies consistently, while we work to get the American public vaccinated.”
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