Senior US health official ‘scared’ by Covid-19 trajectory

Dr. Rochelle Walensky

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky is "scared" by what she's seeing on the coronavirus horizon - and she seems to want all Americans to be, too, urging people to "sound the alarm" to everyone.

After a record wave of coronavirus infections over the winter, hospitalisations and death rates for the USA peaked around the start of the year and have broadly been in decline since. The most recent seven day average, about 4,800 admissions per day, is up from 4,600 admissions per day in the prior seven day period.

Cases of the virus are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said.

"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 during a briefing.

"We've seen surges after every single holiday", she reiterated: "Please limit travel to essential travel for the time being".

Walensky on Monday explained that the trajectory of the virus in the country looks similar to the way it has progressed in other European countries like Germany, Italy, and France, which have generally trended ahead of the USA in COVID-19 metrics. We could still see a setback in the vaccination program.

"When you're coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau, once you stay at that plateau, you're really in danger of a surge coming up", Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News on Sunday.

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Officials cited states opening up their economies and loosening pandemic restrictions prematurely, along with an increase in travel, as reasons for the uptick.

And she said with the vaccination effort underway the end of the pandemic is within reach, but she said until more Americans are vaccinated everyone has to continue wearing masks, refrain from nonessential travel, and take steps to prevent more people from becoming sick.

Half of the cases in the last two weeks have been in people under 30 years old, while the most prominent age group with new cases is people between 20 and 29 years old, Levine added. "It will be a race between the vaccine and what's going on with the dynamics of the outbreak, and we can win this by just hanging in there a bit longer".

About 2.6 million doses are being administered each day. However, Fauci warned, "if we open up completely now, that is premature given the level of infection".

The study is ongoing, and scientists will look to sequence the virus in cases where it was able to infect people despite vaccination, to better understand why this happens in some cases.

The administration, instead, is developing guidelines for such passports, touching on privacy, accuracy and equity, but the White House has not said when those guidelines will be ready.

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