The U.S. is facing “impending doom” as daily Covid-19 cases begin to rebound once again, threatening to send more people to the hospital even as vaccinations accelerate nationwide, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.
“When I first started at CDC about two months ago I made a promise to you: I would tell you the truth even if it was not the news we wanted to hear. Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth and I have to hope and trust you will listen,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing.
“I’m going to pause here, I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said. “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.”
The U.S. is recording a weekly average of 63,239 new Covid-19 cases per day, a 16% increase compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Daily cases are now growing by at least 5% in 30 states and D.C.
Coronavirus hospitalizations are also growing. The U.S. is reporting a seven-day average of 4,816 Covid-19 hospital admissions as of Friday, a 4.2% increase compared with the week prior, according to CDC data.
Walensky urged Americans to “just hold on a little longer” and to get vaccinated against the virus once it’s their turn. When cases rise as they have over the last week or so, Walensky said, they often “surge and surge big” shortly thereafter.
“I’m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC director and not only as your CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer,” Walensky said.
Leading public health experts have warned since late February that infections could pick back up again amid the rise of virus variants threatening to sweep across the U.S. much like they did in Europe.
One of those variants first identified in the U.K, knowwen as B.1.1.7, has now been detected in every state except Oklahoma, according to the CDC’s most recent data. The CDC is also carefully watching another variant found in New York City, known as B.1.526, which is also thought to be more transmissible compared with previous strains, Walensky said last week.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday, however, that the troublesome virus mutations aren’t the only reason cases are on the rise.
More Americans, tired of pandemic restrictions and reassured by the life-saving vaccines, are traveling for spring break. Some state leaders are pulling back on restrictions, including mask mandates, intended to slow the virus’ spread.
“Variants we take seriously and are concerned, but it is not only the variants that are doing that,” Fauci told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.