CDC director ‘really worried’ about states rolling back Covid safety measures as U.S. cases appear to plateau

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that she is “really worried” about some states rolling back public health measures intended to contain the coronavirus pandemic as U.S. cases appear to be leveling off at a “very high number.”

The declines in Covid-19 cases seen since early January now appear to be stalling at around 70,000 new cases per day, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House news briefing. “With these statistics, I am really worried about more states rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19.”

“Seventy thousand cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago,” she said. “Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.”

The U.S. is recording at least 67,300 new Covid-19 cases each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. peaked at close to 250,000 cases per day in early January following the winter holidays.

Top U.S. health officials, including Walensky and White House Chief Medical Advisory Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned in recent weeks that the rise of more contagious variants could reverse the current downward trajectory in infections in the U.S. and delay the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.

As of Sunday, the CDC has identified 2,400 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K. The agency has identified 53 cases of the B.1.351 strain from South Africa as well as 10 cases of P.1, a variant first identified in Brazil.

Fauci said Monday that U.S. health officials are also closely monitoring another variant in New York that carries mutations that help it evade the body’s natural immune response.

Officials say viruses cannot mutate if they cannot infect hosts and replicate. They are also pushing Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible before potentially new and even more dangerous variants continue to take hold.

Walensky said Monday that vaccinations will help the U.S. get out of the pandemic, touting that the Food and Drug Administration authorized Johnson & Johnson‘s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the third shot to be approved for distribution in the U.S. and the only vaccine that requires just one dose. Walensky signed off on the vaccine on Sunday.

The J&J vaccine is a “much needed addition to our toolbox,” she said, adding the authorization will make it possible for more people to get vaccinated.

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