With may millions of people getting vaccinated for COVID-19 every week and infection rates decreasing in recent weeks, medical experts have been expressing some optimism about the future course of the pandemic. But Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned on Friday that the declines are now "stalling."
In a briefing on Friday, the CDC director explained, "Over the last few weeks, cases and hospital admissions in the United States had been coming down since early January — and deaths had been declining in the past week. But the latest data suggests that these declines may be stalling, potentially leveling off at still a very high number. We at CDC consider this a very concerning shift in the trajectory."
President Joe Biden has been pushing for an aggressive increase in COVID-19 vaccinations, and owners of brick-and-mortar businesses in the United States are hoping that it will be safe to ease restrictions in the months ahead. But Walensky warned against easing those restrictions prematurely — especially in light of highly infectious new COVID-19 variants that have emerged.
The number of new #COVID19 cases reported to CDC each day continues to decrease, but cases remain high. As of Feb.… https://t.co/AImUZ4SOFY— CDC (@CDC) 1614204036.0
"It's important to remember where we are in the pandemic," Walensky cautioned during the briefing. "Things are tenuous. Now is not the time to relax restrictions."
Aggressive new COVID-19 variants have emerged in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and elsewhere. And according to Walensky, the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7., now accounts for 10% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
"We may be done with the virus," the CDC director warned, "but clearly, the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give into a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us."
The U.S. recently reached a grim milestone when, according to Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, the number of deaths from COVID-19 passed 500,000 in the U.S. Worldwide, Hopkins reports, the COVID-19 death toll has passed 2.5 million.