WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and a top health official warned Monday that too many Americans are declaring virus victory too quickly, appealing for mask requirements and other restrictions to be maintained or restored to stave off a “fourth surge” of COVID-19. The head of the CDC said she had a feeling of “impending doom” if people keep easing off.
The double dose of warnings came even as Biden laid out hopeful new steps to expand coronavirus vaccinations, with all adults to become eligible over the next five weeks. More than a dozen states will open vaccine eligibility to all adults this week.
Biden also announced plans to expand the number of retail pharmacies administering vaccines, and investments to help Americans get to vaccination sites. But the optimism was tempered by stark warnings about the potential for another wave of cases.
“This is deadly serious,” he said, urging governors to reinstate mask mandates and other restrictions that some states have been easing.
Hours earlier, during a virtual White House health briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, grew emotional as she reflected on her experience treating COVID-19 patients who are alone at the end of their lives.
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” she said. “But right now, I'm scared.”
“I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”
Cases are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said. She warned that without immediate action, the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths.
Biden announced that by April 19, at least 90% of the adult U.S. population would be eligible for vaccination – and would have access to a vaccination site within 5 miles of home. Quick vaccination would still depend on supply.
More than 1 in 5 adults and nearly 50% of senior American are fully vaccinated, according to data from the CDC.
Eviction moratorium extended
The Biden administration is extending a federal moratorium on evictions of tenants who have fallen behind on rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday moved to continue the pandemic-related protection, which had been scheduled to expire on Wednesday. The moratorium is now extended through the end of June.