The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday she is concerned the United States could be headed for an avoidable surge in coronavirus cases as more states relax prevention measures and more people travel around the country.
During a virtual White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, Rochelle Walensky said the U.S. saw the seven-day average of new daily cases climb to 53,800 over the past week, while the two-week average has wavered between 50,000 to 60,000 cases per day.
Meanwhile, the CDC director said U.S. states are seeing an increasing number of new cases attributed to variant strains of the virus, particularly in California — the nation’s most populous state — where a new variant accounts for 52 percent of new infections.
Walensky said, taken together, these statistics should be a warning sign to all Americans that the pandemic is not over.
"I get it. We all want to return to our everyday activities and spend time with our family, friends and loved ones," she said.
Walensky said the U.S. is at a critical point in the pandemic and is worried if the nation does not take the correct actions, it is headed for an "avoidable surge, just as we are seeing in Europe right now, and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccinations." The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.
The White House task force reported 81 million people in the United States — nearly 25 percent — have received at least one vaccination and another 41 million people, about 13 percent, are fully vaccinated. Walensky said among those over 65 years of age, 69 percent have received at least one shot, while 42 percent are fully vaccinated.
She said the statistics are showing the vaccines are working, as, for the first time since early in the pandemic began, a higher percentage of people under the age of 65 are showing up at emergency rooms.
Also at the briefing, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he viewed the recent U.S. trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine as good news. Those trials showed the vaccine to be at least 79 percent effective among all adults, with no test subjects developing any serious side effects or any of the health effects reported elsewhere.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the U.S. The company says it plans to seek clearance in the United States "in the coming weeks."