The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House are calling for continued vigilance and the reinstatement of mask mandates amid a worrying rise in COVID-19 cases as states relax their restrictions and reopen restaurants and other businesses.
The U.S. has surpassed 30 million cases of COVID-19 and is seeing an increase in 7-day averages of new cases per day, CDC director Rochelle Walensky announced in a virtual White House briefing on March 29. The 7-day averages of daily hospitalizations and deaths have also started to rise, prompting worries that we may experience a fourth surge of the pandemic more than a year after it officially took hold in this country.
“I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. 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 said during the briefing, appearing to speak candidly and emotionally from the heart. She continued:
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, to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer. I so badly want to be done, I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, but not quite yet. And so I’m asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.
President Joe Biden echoed Walensky’s sentiments a few hours later, appealing to local and state leaders to pull the brakes on the easing of COVID-related restrictions and to require people to wear masks again. “Now is not the time to let down,” he said. “Now’s not the time to celebrate. It is time to do what we do best as a country: our duty, our jobs, take care of one another.”
In cities and states across the U.S., schools have reopened, restrictions on indoor dining have been lifted, and governments have ended mandates to wear masks inside businesses and in public settings. Restaurants and bars are showing signs of a positive financial rebound thanks in part to such easing of restrictions, as Restaurant Business points out. Increased dining out has been linked to COVID-19 spikes, while mask mandates are linked to decreases in infections and deaths, according to a CDC study published earlier this month. Until enough of the population is vaccinated to achieve herd immunity — which experts say is still a long way away — it’s as important as ever to remain cautious, despite whichever restrictions have eased locally.