The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expressed concern Monday about the number of people traveling in the United States in recent days, saying the pandemic is far from over, and people should not act as though it is.
Speaking during a virtual briefing as part of the White House COVID-19 response team, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said more than 1.3. million people traveled through U.S. airports last Friday, more than on any single day since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
Walensky said she saw news coverage of people enjoying spring break in locations around the country without masks, all while the country is still seeing as many as 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day.
She noted this comes as many European nations are seeing surges in infection numbers after those nations saw declines in new cases and the public began ignoring accepted virus mitigation measures. She said those nations "simply took their eye off the ball."
"For the sake of our nation's health," Walensky said, pleading with the public to heed the warning signs from Europe, "continue following recommended public health prevention precautions and be ready to get vaccinated when it is possible."
"We're just starting to turn the corner," she said. "The data are moving in the right direction, but where this goes is dependent on whether we all do what must be done to protect ourselves and others."
She said she is assessing new research that indicates a social distance of 3 feet between students in schools could be just as safe as the currently recommended 6 feet, as long as everyone is wearing masks.
Walensky said she understands the 6-feet guidance was among the biggest challenges to schools in their efforts to reopen safely. She said the CDC is expecting other studies on the issue soon and is examining the data carefully before revising its recommendations.