“I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, today during the White House COVID-19 press briefing, reports Stephanie Soucheray for CIDRAP News on March 29.
Growing visibly emotional, Walensky explained that after weeks of going down or remaining stable, COVID-19 cases across the country have jumped again, as has happened at least twice in the past year before the nation experienced a major surge in virus activity.
“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.
“Holding on” is a reference to increasing the number of Americans who receive any of the three federally-authorized COVID-19 vaccines, particularly those who are most vulnerable to serious outcomes if infected by SARS-CoV-2.
The number of vaccinated Americans is “now averaging 2.7 million vaccinations over the last seven days,” announced Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor on the COVID-19 response, at the beginning of the half-hour press briefing (transcript and YouTube). “Yesterday, the U.S. reported 3.28 million vaccinations.”
As of today, 73 percent of seniors have now received their first dose. And 36 percent — more than 1 in 3 adults — have received their first dose. That’s 36 percent of adults. Overall, now more than 50 million Americans — approaching 1 in 5 adults — are fully vaccinated. [See CDC COVID-19 vaccination data tracker.]
As goes Europe, so goes the United States?
“The trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looks similar to many other countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy, and France looked like just a few weeks ago,” continued Walensky. “And since that time, those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases.”
In fact, “Europe and Russia,” one of eight global regions that The Washington Post tracks daily, is experiencing the most daily new infections per capita: 29 per 100,000 people on March 29, followed by South America with 27 per 100k and the United States with 19 per 100k. Among the countries that Walensky cited, France is experiencing the most severe surge: 70 per 100k, a 45% increase in the past week, making it the sixth-highest in the world.
[See related posts: The World’s Highest Rates of Coronavirus Infections and Deaths, March 22; Pandemic Watch: What’s Going on in Europe? March 18.]
In the United States, Michigan is experiencing the most rapid growth in new infections: 56% in the last week, and has the second-highest case incidence, 47 per 100k, after New Jersey with 49 per 100k, according to the Post’s U.S. coronavirus data tracker on March 29.
Fourth surge or ripple?
Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have seen a double-digit increase in daily new cases in the past week while seven have experienced a double-digit decrease, according to the Post’s tracker (click “state totals”).
“Over the past week, there has been an average of 63,204 cases per day, an increase of 15 percent from the average two weeks earlier,” states the introduction to The New York Times U.S. coronavirus data tracker on March 29. It’s also a 9% increase since Planetizen’s recent post on the likelihood of a resurgence, “Experts: Fourth Coronavirus Surge Likely More of a Ripple,” when daily new cases were averaging 58,543 on March 9.
“But both Walensky and Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said that another surge was not inevitable,” adds Soucheray of CIDRAP News.
“For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge,” stated Walenksy.
Fauci addressed the cause of the increase in cases in response to a question from Chris Megerian of the Los Angeles Times, “I wanted to see if you can specifically speak to why this rise is happening.”
“…I think the reason we’re seeing this plateauing and a bit of a little increase that we hope doesn’t turn into a surge is because we are really doing things prematurely right now with regard to opening up,” answered Fauci.
See Megerian’s piece in the Los Angeles Times published Monday evening: “Biden warns ‘we’re in a life-and-death race’ with COVID-19.“
Related in Planetizen: