CDC Director Talks Feeling Of ‘Impending Doom,’ Urges Against Virus Complaceny

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that she has been experiencing a recurring feeling of “impending doom” and has been scared for the state of the pandemic if people stop following public health guidelines. 

“I’m going to pause here, I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” said Walensky in a Monday morning press conference, speaking, she said, in a personal capacity and not as director of the CDC. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope: But right now I’m scared.”

After acknowledging recent scientific breakthroughs — three FDA authorized vaccines that have been used to vaccinate millions — Walesnky said that the pandemic trajectory currently looks similar to what some European countries have experienced. “Since that time, those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases. We are not powerless, we can change this trajectory of the pandemic, but it will take all of us recommitting to following the public health prevention strategies consistently while we work to get the American public vaccinated,” she said. 

Later in the press conference, a reporter asked Walesnky what she saw in the data that prompted her to use the phrase “impending doom.” Walesnky responded: “When we were stagnating at around 40-50k cases a day for a couple of weeks there, we didn’t see trends going down anymore, but things were sort of holding steady. What we’ve seen over the last week or so is a steady rise in cases. We’re now in the sixty to seventy-thousand range, and when we see that uptick in cases, what we’ve seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge, and surge big. We know that cases sometimes can be a week or two behind, the behaviors that lead to those cases, the mixing that leads to those cases, we know that travel is up, and I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw over the summer and over the winter again.” 

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 1 in 3 adults have received at least one dose, according to White House COVID-19 Response Team Sr. Adviser Andy Slavitt. Furthermore, nearly 3 in 4 seniors have received their first dose. 

Walensky, at another point in the press conference, said that the seven-day COVID-19 case average — currently a little less than 60,000 cases per day — was up 10% from the previous seven-day average. She also said that, on average, about 4,800 people have been admitted to the hospital each day over the last seven days, an increase from about 4,600 in the previous seven-day average. 

She also said deaths have increased 3% to about 1,000 deaths per day in the seven-day average. Although these figures are higher, they remain significantly lower than the figures from mid-January, when the seven-day average peaked at 3,347 deaths per day, according to Washington Post data. During January, an average of 3,100 Americans died of COVID-19 each day, and in six days, more than 4,000 people died. 

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