Top US government coronavirus experts warned on Friday that there is deep concern about infections rising again and although there is cause for optimism amid accelerating vaccinations “there is no case for relaxation” in the pandemic.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said at a White House briefing that the most recent weekly average shows a 7% increase in infections in the US from the previous week, at about 57,000 cases a day.
New hospitalizations have slightly increased, too.
“I remain deeply concerned about this trajectory. Please, take this moment very seriously,” Walensky said.
The US daily death toll continues to hover at about 1,000 people, with confirmed infections rising in around 20 states and deaths rising in 17 states.
At his first official press conference as president on Thursday, Joe Biden announced a doubling of his vaccination goal, from 100m vaccinations in the first 100 days of his administration to 200m doses administered.
On Friday morning, Walensky warned that, despite encouraging data about vaccinations, the US risked losing hard-earned ground in the fight against coronavirus if the numbers of infections and hospitalizations do not decline.
Meanwhile, 46 states and the District of Columbia have announced plans to open vaccination eligibility to all adults no later than 1 May, in alignment with the Biden administration’s recommendations, Jeff Zients, White House Covid response coordinator said.
But even as 2.5 million people a day get vaccinated, Zients stressed that Americans must remain diligent in protecting themselves.
“It’s clear there is a case for optimism, but there is not a case for relaxation,” he said. “This is not the time to let down our guard. We need to follow the public health guidance, wear a mask, socially distance and get a vaccine when it’s your turn.”
Officials say there are now nearly 50,000 locations where people can get vaccinated, a total that will ramp up, including federally run mass vaccination sites.
Walensky said she continues to be concerned that the pandemic has disproportionately affected people from marginalized communities.
The CDC is addressing these inequities, including more money into vaccine distribution and investment in “access, acceptance and uptake among racial and ethnic minority communities”, Walenskay said.
Meanwhile the top infectious diseases official Dr Anthony Fauci announced a new trial testing how well vaccines prevent infection and transmission.
“The prevailing question is when these [vaccinated] people get infected, how often is that? If they’re asymptomatic, how much virus do they have in their nose? And, do they transmit it?” he said, adding results would inform the government about recommended actions for those who have been inoculated.