President Joe Biden is facing a new surge in coronavirus cases on his watch, leading to fears of a deadly fourth wave of infections even as millions of Americans are being vaccinated every day.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she felt a sense of “impending doom” unless Americans maintained precautions. Her voice cracked as she talked about treating dying patients and seeing the extra mobile morgue parked outside the hospital where she previously worked in Massachusetts.
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” she said during a White House briefing on Monday. “But right now, I’m scared.”
Walensky and other top public health officials are pleading with people to continue wearing masks and to keep their distance from one another to slow the spread of the virus and its new variants at a time when states are loosening restrictions on businesses and people are eager to return to normal life.
The nationwide inoculation campaign is picking up pace, and officials say the country remains on Biden’s track to have enough doses for every adult by the middle of May. The question is how many people become infected before that.
In a message to the American public, Walensky said, “I’m asking you to just hold on a little while longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be there when this pandemic ends.”
Hospital admissions have increased to an average of 4,816 per day over the last week, up from 4,621 the week before that. COVID-19 deaths are also on the rise, with an average of 968 people dying each day over the last week, up from 944 during the previous seven days. The country is nearing an average of 60,000 new cases per day.
The rising cases are a roadblock to Biden’s effort to make progress against the pandemic, the core challenge of his presidency. To date, he’s been able to tout expanded vaccination efforts; having hit his 100-day target in 58 days, he just doubled his goal for inoculations to 200 million shots administered by April 30.
However, the recent drop in cases after a deadly winter has stalled, leading to renewed warnings about the seriousness of the disease. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top expert on infectious diseases, at the briefing showed X-rays of lungs to remind people of the damage that COVID-19 could do.
“Everyone really needs to appreciate that we really want to get back to normal as quickly as possible,” he said. However, Fauci warned, “if we open up completely now, that is premature given the level of infection.”
(c) 2021 the Los Angeles Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.