United States facing ‘impending doom’
US President Joe Biden has called for states to reimpose mask mandates to slow the spread of the coronavirus amid an uptick in cases across the country.
The US is currently averaging about 63,000 new infections each day. While that's well below the peak of almost 260,000 it hit back in early January, it represents an increase of more than 10 per cent from a fortnight ago.
One of the government's top health officials, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, issued a grim warning of "impending doom" today.
She blamed the increase in cases on the spread of new, more infectious COVID-19 variants, a rise in travel among Americans, and some states rescinding their restrictions too quickly.
"When I first started at the CDC about two months ago, I made a promise to you: I would tell you the truth, even if it was not the news we wanted to hear. Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen," Dr Walensky said.
"I'm going to pause here, I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much potential of where we are in, so much reason for hope, but right now I am scared.
"I know what it's like, as a physician, to stand in that patient room, gowned, gloved, masked and shielded, and to be the last person to touch someone else's loved one because their loved one couldn't be there.
"I know what it's like when you're the physician, when you're the health care provider, and you're worried that you don't have the resources to take care of the patients in front of you.
"So I'm speaking today not necessarily 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.
"I so badly want to be done, I know you all want so badly to be done. We are almost there, but not quite yet."
This month, air travel across the US hit its highest point since the start of the pandemic. Much of it has been attributed to young people moving around for spring break.
Dr Walensky noted that the country had seen a surge in cases "after every single holiday", such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"Please limit travel to essential travel for the time being," she said.
“Impending doom”: CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Monday that she’s “scared” about another potential surge of COVID-19 cases and begged Americans to ” just hold on a little longer” with pandemic precautions. https://t.co/yjq4T6QrTmpic.twitter.com/3x0HC8crgT— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 29, 2021
This afternoon, Mr Biden held a public event announcing that 90 per cent of adults will be eligible to receive the COVID vaccines by April 19. That represents yet another acceleration in the rollout.
His tone, however, was stern.
"This is deadly serious," said Mr Biden.
"The CDC Director expressed earlier today, this is not a time to lessen our efforts. That's what she said. We could still see a setback in the vaccination program.
"And most importantly, if we let our guard down now we could see a virus getting worse, not better. People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing.
"Now is not the time to let down. Now's not the time to celebrate. It is time to do what we do best as a country: our duty, our jobs. Take care of one another."
The President warned that, despite America's progress in vaccinating millions of people, it still had many more to go.
"We are in a life and death race with a virus that is spreading quickly, with cases rising again. New variants are spreading, and sadly, some of the reckless behaviour we've seen on TV over the past few weeks means that more new cases are to come in the weeks ahead," he said, referring to images of people flocking to holiday spots.
"I'm reiterating my call for every governor, mayor and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate. Please, this is not politics.
"Reinstate the mandate if you let it down. And businesses should require masks as well. The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us in this mess in the first place, (it) risks more cases and more deaths."
As Mr Biden left the event, a reporter asked whether he thought state governments should "pause their reopening efforts".
"Yes," he responded.
Originally published as United States facing 'impending doom'