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Biden CDC Director Fears ‘Impending Doom’ of Another COVID Surge: ‘Right Now I’m Scared’

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, President Joe Biden’s appointee to run the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), removes her mask to during a news conference at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Del., December 8, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director under President Biden, said she has a feeling of “impending doom” that the country is facing a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Speaking to reporters in a virtual press conference, Walensky explained that while “we are just almost there — but not quite yet,” rising cases to around 70,000 per day have given her cause for concern. COVID tracking from the New York Times shows that, over the last two weeks, cases have risen by 15 percent to a rolling average of approximately 63,000, while hospitalizations and deaths have fallen by 6 and 29 percent, respectively.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Walensky, who said “I’m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC Director and not only as your CDC Director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter,” cited COVID case counts in France, Germany, and Italy as potential COVID harbingers for the United States. In recent weeks, she explained, “those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases.”

Speaking hours later, President Joe Biden said he “shares the sentiment” that Walensky expressed.

“The CDC expressed earlier today that this is not a time to lessen our efforts. That’s what she said. We could still see a setback in the vaccination program and most importantly, if we let our guard down now, we could see it getting worse not better,” he said.

Data from Johns Hopkins shows that over the last two weeks, the rolling average of daily cases has increased in France and Germany — by approximately 13,000 to 37,500, and by 6,000 to 16,000, respectively — while plateauing at around 22,000 in Italy. Comparing vaccination data shows that the U.S. has administered 143 million doses, covering an estimated 22 percent of the population, while France, Germany, and Italy have covered 8.0, 7.4, and 7.7 percent, respectively with a combined 31.3 million doses.

“We are not powerless, we can change this trajectory of the pandemic,” Walensky continued. “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.”

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