The head of the CDC said Monday she is “deeply concerned” that the steep drop in US COVID-19 infection and death rates has stalled — and that the numbers may now be headed in the opposite direction.
“I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic,’’ said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a White House virtual briefing.
“The latest CDC data continue to suggest that recent declines in cases have leveled off at a very high number,” Walensky said.
“The most recent seven-day average of cases, approximately 67,200, represents an increase of a little over 2 percent compared to the prior seven days.
“Similarly, the most recent seven-day average of deaths has also increased more than 2 percent from the previous seven days — to nearly 2,000 deaths per day,” she said.
“These data are evidence that our recent declines appear to be stalling,” the doctor said.
She warned that if states are considering relaxing health and safety measures, they should think again.
“With these new statistics, I’m really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public-health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” the CDC chief said.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Photo by Chris Greenberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
“We cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day,” she said of the US infection rate.
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.”
Walensky has said coronavirus mutations may be fueling the current plateau.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the press briefing that the feds are taking the New York variant, also known as B.1.526, “very seriously” — repeating comments he made Sunday, telling Empire State residents at the time not to “despair.”
“[Recent research] has shown we have to really keep an eye on that variant’s ability to evade both [man-made] monoclonal antibodies and to a certain extent, the vaccine-induced antibodies,” Fauci said Monday of the New York mutation.
“It’s something we take very, very seriously,” he said.
“It started off in what is likely in the Washington Heights section and has gone through multiple boroughs and is now gaining,” said the nation’s top infectious-disease doctor.
A COVID-19 patient on a ventilator at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California on January 7, 2021.Jae C. Hong, AP File
Health officials have said mutations of the virus, including those out of the UK and South Africa, may be more contagious and potentially more lethal than COVID-19.
Walensky said studies have shown the strains can readily pop up — emerging “in a single host.”
“It’s our reason to decrease the circulating virus everywhere,” she said.
Both she and Fauci urged Americans to continue to get vaccinated, saying that the more people who do, the less chance there will be of mutations.