CDC director warns of fourth wave: ‘Right now, I’m scared’
As COVID-19 cases begin to rise again, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, pleaded with Americans to “just please hold on a little while longer” and “get vaccinated when you can.”
“I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said Monday during a White House briefing. “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.”
According to Walensky, the current trajectory of the United States looks similar to that of European countries like Germany, Italy and France, which “have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases.” For a few weeks, she said, reported cases in the U.S. ranged from 40,000 to 50,000 a day, and things were “holding steady.” Over the last week, there has been a steady rise to 60,000 to 70,000 cases per day.
“What we have seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge and to surge big,” Walensky said. “For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge.”
The most recent available data show that the country’s 7-day case average increase by around 10% to slightly less than 60,0000 cases per day during the week of March 14 to 21, Walensky noted. Additionally, the 7-day average COVID-19 hospitalization rate also increased over the previous week, from 4,600 to 4,800 per day, and deaths have started to rise, increasing by almost 3% to a 7-day average of around 1,000 per day, Walensky said.
According to tracking by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children accounted for almost 20% of new weekly cases during the week of March 18 to 25, with more than 64,000 new cases reported. There was a slight increase in cases after steady declines in the previous 2 months. As of March 25, more than 3.4 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, the AAP reported.
“I think people want to be done with this — as I mentioned that, I too, want to be done with this,” Walensky said. “The thing that's different this time is that we actually have it in our power to be done, with the scale of the vaccination, and that will be so much slower if we have another surge to deal with, as well.”
Walensky said she will speak with state governors on Tuesday to advise them not to open up too fast.
“If we open up completely now, that is premature, given the level of infection that Dr. Walensky described in her formal presentation,” Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the briefing.
AAP. Children and COVID-19: State-level data report. https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-state-level-data-report/. Accessed March 29, 2021.