The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday made an emotional plea for Americans to continue following public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, describing a feeling of “impending doom” as case reports rise nationwide.
“We do not have the luxury of inaction,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 news briefing on Monday. “For the health of our country we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge.”
The CDC head urged people to continue following public health guidance, such as wearing masks while out and practicing social distancing, and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“We are not powerless,” Walensky said. “We can change this trajectory of the pandemic.”
Walensky went off script to make her plea, noting that the trajectory of cases across the U.S. appears to have been following ones seen in several European countries. In the last week, she said “those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in the cases.”
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” Walensky said. “But right now, I’m scared.”
Over the last week, an average of about 60,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported each day, up 10% from the number reported in the week prior, the CDC director said. Hospitalizations have gone up from an average of about 4,600 case per day to 4,800 cases per day. Deaths are also starting to rise, with an increase of about 3% seen in the last week, Walensky said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed Walensky in calling for continued caution, saying that restrictions aimed at stymying the spread of COVID-19 are being lifted too soon in several areas.
“We are doing things prematurely,” Fauci said. “Just please hold on a little while longer.”
As of Monday morning, the U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of COVID-19 cases confirmed nationwide with 30.2 million, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University. The viral infection has claimed nearly 550,000 lives in the U.S. alone.
Globally, 127.3 million COVID-19 cases have been reported, causing 2.7 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
As of Sunday morning, the last date for which data was available, 143.4 million COVID-19 vaccination doses have been administered across the U.S. So far, 51.5 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, accounting for about 15% of the population.