WASHINGTON — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm that recent gains against the coronavirus may be stalling.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the CDC is looking at data that COVID-19 cases have been increasing the past three days, but more time is needed to see if that is a blip or the start of a trend.
Walensky spoke at the White House coronavirus briefing Friday, noting virus mutations spreading in the U.S. are among the CDC’s biggest concerns. Along with a more transmissible strain first detected in Britain, scientists here are tracking variants in New York and California, which also appear to spread more easily.
“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” says Walensky, stressing now is not the time to relax protective measures like wearing masks and avoiding gatherings.
Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since the January peak that followed the winter holidays. Deaths have also declined. But Walensky says those gains could be in jeopardy because the background level of cases is still too high.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The United States has more than 28 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Friday, the U.S. had more than 508,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 113 million confirmed cases with more than 2.5 million deaths.