New Covid-19 cases have spiked in the US in the last several days, the latest data showed Tuesday — and White House and health officials are pleading with the country to take more precautions until more people can be vaccinated.
The country has averaged 65,700 new cases a day over the last week — a 22% jump from the week prior, when the number was near 2021’s lowest point, Johns Hopkins University data show.
Numbers like this moved Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to say Monday she was “scared” and felt “impending doom” about where the US is heading.
Simply put, although vaccination rates are rising and eligibility is expanding, more-contagious variants like B.1.1.7 are spreading, and a lot of people still are vulnerable.
“Vaccines don’t work until they hit people’s arms — and we just don’t have enough vaccinations in people’s arms yet to be able to achieve the kind of herd immunity that we need,” epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former health commissioner for Detroit, said Tuesday.
Walensky on Monday night expanded on the “impending doom” warning she’d given hours earlier: She treated Covid-19 patients before she became CDC director, and she doesn’t want another wave when “we’re reaching towards getting so many more people vaccinated,” she told MSNBC’s Rachel
“I just can’t face another surge when there’s so much optimism right at our fingertips,” she told MSNBC.
The B.1.1.7 variant accounts for about 26% of all circulating virus around the US, and it is dominating in some regions, Walensky said.
“That is concerning,” she said. “So far, it appears that the B.1.1.7 is neutralized by our current vaccines, but … if you have enough virus circulating, those variants can mutate even more and lead to sort of more troublesome variants in the future, which is why we just really want to stop the circulation of virus.”
Covid-19 hospitalizations and daily deaths, the trajectories of which usually mimic cases weeks later, also are inching up after weeks of declines.
More than 38,800 Covid-19 patients were in US hospitals on Saturday — well below a pandemic peak of more than 136,000 on January 5, but creeping above this year’s low mark of 37,913 on March 21, the latest data from the Department of Health and Human Services show.
The country has averaged about 989 Covid-19 deaths over the last week — far below the pandemic peak of 3,427, but above the year’s lowest average of 934 set on March 23.
More than 550,000 people in the US have died of Covid-19, a death toll far higher than any other country’s.