Top Biden health officials issue warning of rising covid infections
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strongly encouraged people living in communities designated yellow or orange, indicating that they have a large number of new infections and hospitalizations, to consider wearing masks in the indoor public spaces and to take other measures to protect themselves .
“As we are currently seeing a steady increase in cases in some parts of the country, we encourage everyone to use the menu of tools we have today to prevent new infections and serious illnesses, including wearing a mask, the test, access to early treatment if infected and getting vaccinated or boosted”, she says.
Wednesday’s warnings from Walensky and two other officials – Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 Response The coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, arrived on the same day the United States surpassed the grim milestone of one million covid deaths, a toll that even the harshest forecasts at the start of the pandemic in 2020 had not anticipated.
While officials stressed that the current situation is far less severe than the winter omicron surge, they warned that the country would be ill-prepared to respond effectively in the coming months if Congress did not soon affect billions of covid aid dollars to buy a new slice of antiviral treatments, vaccines and tests.
Walensky said the seven-day average of new infections has climbed to around 94,000 a day, a 26% increase from the previous week and a three-fold increase over the past month. Hospitalizations are also starting to rise, she said, with admissions up about 19% from the previous week, to about 3,000 a day.
Biden officials and experts said they expect a summer surge in the South as heat forces people indoors, as has happened the previous two summers. Some experts have warned that this summer’s surge could be worse than last year’s, as cases are currently higher than they were in May 2021.
They also warned of a possible fall and winter surge that could lead to around 1 million daily coronavirus infections caused by omicron subvariants that have shown a remarkable ability to evade immunity. This surge could be deadly if the administration cannot buy more high-quality vaccines, antivirals, tests and masks, officials said.
“We have quite a high degree of immunity in our population,” Jha said. “But we are also seeing a lot of infections right now across the country. …which primarily drives these incredibly contagious subvariants. … with more immune evasion.
Adding to this challenge: Vaccine-boosted immunity and previous omicron infections wane within months, meaning people can be reinfected in a short time.
Moderna and Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, are working on new recalls that combine versions of the coronavirus to protect against the omicron family of variants. But it is still unclear whether these injections will be more effective than existing vaccines. Even so, officials said the administration would struggle to buy enough doses of the new vaccines without the money from Congress.
“I am convinced that we will find the money to be able to vaccinate Americans. maybe just [those at] the highest risk,” Jha said. “But these are not decisions we want to have to make. … I think we would see a lot of unnecessary loss of life if that were to happen.
The administration requested $22.5 billion in covid relief several months ago, a deal that fell apart due to differences over how to pay it. In early April, the Senate reached a $10 billion bipartisan deal, but the backlash from the Biden administration’s decision to ease pandemic restrictions at the border has put the compromise’s passage in jeopardy. Its prospects remain unclear.
The rise in cases comes as most mitigation measures, including mask mandates and capacity limits in places such as bars and restaurants, have been lifted. CDC guidelines advise implementing mask requirements as hospitalizations spike, and many counties are now meeting that threshold.
Dan Keating contributed to this report.