WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, warned Monday of "impending doom" as the U.S. sees a steady rise in Covid-19 cases and gave an emotional plea for Americans to continue following mask-wearing and social-distancing guidelines.
“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. “I so badly want to be done, I know you all so badly want to be done. We're just almost there, but not quite yet. And so I'm asking you to just hold on a little longer to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.”
Walensky, who has been warning about troubling data on the number of new infections for weeks, said she fears the U.S. could see another surge in cases similar to last summer and mirroring spikes that Europe is seeing. She attributed the rise in part to the spread of more contagious variants, increased travel, and governors lowering restrictions too quickly. She said she will urge governors again on Tuesday not to open up their states too quickly.
"I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," she 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. 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 someone else's loved ones, because their loved ones couldn't be there."
The average number of new cases has increased 10 percent to slightly less than 60,000 cases a day over the past week, she said. Hospitalizations have also increased, and deaths increased nearly 3 percent to an average about 1,000 deaths a day.
The warning comes after the U.S. has been nearing 3 million vaccinations a day over the past few days, topping that mark on Sunday, Jeffrey Zients, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, said. As of Monday, 73 percent of seniors have received their first dose and more than 1 in 3 adults have received their first dose.
Zients also said the administration is not currently planning to create a vaccine passport that would allow those who have been vaccinated to engage in certain activities, as other countries have done. The administration doesn’t view that as the role of the federal government, but instead would be for the private sector to implement, he said.