WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned Monday of "impending doom" because of steady rise in U.S. Covid-19 cases, and she made an emotional plea for people 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 that the U.S. could have another surge in cases similar to last summer's, mirroring spikes in Europe. 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 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 by 10 percent to slightly less than 60,000 cases a day over the past week, she said. Hospitalizations have also increased, and deaths have increased by nearly 3 percent to an average about 1,000 a day.
The U.S. has been nearing 3 million vaccinations a day over the past few days, topping the mark Sunday, said Jeffrey Zients, the White House Covid-19 coordinator. As of Monday, 73 percent of seniors had received their first doses, and more than 1 in 3 adults had received their first doses.
Zients said the administration does not plan 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 does not view that as the role of the federal government, he said, saying it would be one for the private sector.