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CDC Director Fears 'Impending Doom' If U.S. Opens Too Quickly

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director, said Monday that she is "scared" by the rising number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director, said Monday that she is "scared" by the rising number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.

Amid growing optimism about the rising pace of vaccinations in the U.S., the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has one request for the American people: Don't act as if the pandemic is over – it's not.

In an emotional plea during the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Monday, the CDC chief, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, described a feeling of "impending doom."

"We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope," Walensky said. "But right now, I'm scared."

The cause of her concern? A rising number of coronavirus cases in the United States. The most recent seven-day average is just below 60,000 cases per day – a 10% increase compared with the previous week.

Hospitalizations are up, too: about 4,800 admissions per day over the last week, up from an average 4,600 per day in the previous seven-day period. And deaths, which tend to lag cases and hospitalizations, have also begun to rise: increasing nearly 3%, to a seven-day average of about 1,000 per day.

Walensky said those numbers are especially worrisome because the pattern looks similar to the trajectory of European countries, including Germany, Italy and France, which are now battling a new wave of infections.

The U.S. has now passed 30 million total confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Walensky and White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said they would meet with governors Tuesday to discuss the increased supply in vaccines. Walensky said she would counsel governors and other leaders to stop lifting restrictions as quickly as they are, given that a surge may be imminent.

"Just please hold on a little while longer," Walensky said. "I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, but not quite yet. And so I'm asking you to just hold on a little longer to get vaccinated when you can — so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends."

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