CDC director warns of fourth COVID-19 surge, asks Americans to continue following public health measures

BOSTON — The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet with all 50 governors Tuesday, one day after she made an emotional plea for Americans to continue following public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, describing a feeling of “impending doom” as case reports rise nationwide.

“We do not have the luxury of inaction,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 news briefing on Monday. “For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge.”

While we are nowhere near where we were during the post-holiday peak when the nationwide seven-day average was almost 260,000 cases, Dr. Walensky said we need to be looking at the last couple of weeks.

“The seven-day average of new cases is slightly less than 60,000 cases per day,” Walensky said. “This is a 10% increase compared to the prior seven-day period. Hospitalizations have also increased.”

Locally, we are also seeing a slight increase, but Dr. Alister Martin of the Mass. General Hospital Emergency Room said, right now, he’s more concerned about what’s happening nationally than here at home.

“At the state level, I’m nowhere near as concerned about it as I am at the national level,” Dr. Martin said.

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“You take a look at some of those pictures, you see it’s spring break down in Miami and it’s like if COVID-19 doesn’t exist down there. Here, you still see the majority of people wearing masks, particularly indoors. You see folks really trying to make it to their vaccination appointments and get this vaccine so they can sort of beginning to gain some semblance of normalcy again. So I think as a state we are doing a fairly good job, but nationally, I’m very concerned.”

“Right now, I’m scared,” Dr. Walensky said. “I know what it’s like to stand in that patient room and to be the last person to touch someone, a loved one.”

The seven-day average has gone from 1,400 to about 2,100 locally. Nationally we went from about 54,000 to 63,000.

“What we’re seeing now is more trouble than we saw throughout the pandemic including the Christmas and New Year’s holidays,” Dr. Walensky said. “The trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looks similar to many other countries in Europe, including [what] Germany, Italy and France looked like just a few weeks ago.:

However, if we can delay our COVID-19 fatigue a little longer, she said a new study has them hopeful.

“The study found the risk of infection was reduced by 90% after individuals received those two recommended doses of vaccine,” she said. “The study also found people starting to get a protective effect even after. This study also demonstrates that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do not just reduce the risk of symptomatic infections, but also asymptomatic infections.”

Doctors locally and nationally say, regardless of where numbers are, it doesn’t take much to see another surge, and that’s the last thing anyone wants to see.

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“You would run from one room, putting a patient on a ventilator to the next room putting a different patient on the ventilator, and then another patient would come in and you have to sort of figuring out why I don’t have the staff to do this,” Dr. Martin said.

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