The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a plea to Americans Monday not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, saying she has a recurring feeling “of impending doom.” President Joe Biden prepared to announce further efforts to expand access to coronavirus vaccines.
Speaking during a virtual White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky grew emotional as she reflected on her experience treating COVID-19 patients who are alone at the end of their lives.
Cases of the virus are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said. She warned that without immediate action the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths.
“I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen,” she added.
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” she said. “But right now, I’m scared.”
Not everyone agrees with her tactic of honesty. One user writing, “Doom, gloom, pessimism & fear hasn’t worked for a year, why would it work now?”
A senior administration official said the president would announce that by April 19 at least 90% of the adult U.S. population would be eligible for vaccination — and would have access to a vaccination site within 5 miles of home. Quick vaccination would still depend on supply as well as overcoming some people’s hesitancy about the shots.
Biden has directed that all states make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1, but many have moved to lift eligibility requirements sooner in anticipation of supply increases.
Meanwhile, the White House was moving to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal retail pharmacy program. Retail pharmacies are located in close proximity to most Americans and have experience delivering vaccines like flu shots.
Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. appealed to elected officials, community leaders, and everyday Americans to maintain social distancing measures and mask-wearing.
“We are doing things prematurely,” Fauci said, referring to moves to ease up on restrictions. Walensky appealed to Americans, “Just please hold on a little while longer.”
She added: “We are not powerless, we can change this trajectory of the pandemic.”
Walensky pointed to an uptick in travel and loosening virus restrictions for the increase in cases. “People want to be done with this. I, too, want to be done with this,” Walensky said.