During a White House covid-19 briefing on Monday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave powerful testimony about the current increase in cases, warning Americans, “When we see that uptick in cases, what we have seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge, and surge big.”
“When I first started at CDC about two months ago, I made a promise to you, I would tell you the truth, even if it was not the news we wanted to hear. Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth and I have to hope and trust you,” Walensky said. “Listen, I’m going to pause here. 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 appeared to get emotional while she spoke about her experiences as a physician dealing with the heartbreaking ramifications of the pandemic: “I know what it’s like as a physician to stand in that patient room, gowned, gloved, masked, shielded, and to be the last person to touch someone else’s loved one because their loved one couldn’t be there … And I know what it’s like to pull up to your hospital every day and see the extra morgue sitting outside.”
According to the director, the seven-day average of new cases has risen by 10 percent while hospitalization rates have also increased. “And deaths, which typically lag behind cases and hospitalizations, have now started to rise,” Walensky said.
The director’s aim was clear, encourage Americans to be diligent with virus safety protocols even in an optimistic atmosphere that the vaccines have brought.
“We have come such a long way—three historic scientific breakthrough vaccines and we are rolling them out so very fast. So I’m speaking today, not necessarily as your CDC director, not only 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,” she said.
Walensky’s appeal comes on the heels of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, warnings of a Covid-19 surge.
Fauci explained on Sunday’s Face the Nation, that often when cases decline and reach a plateau — like they have in the U.S. over the past month— there is a surge.
“Once you stay at that plateau, you’re really in danger of a surge coming up,” Fauci said. “And unfortunately, that’s what we’re starting to see. We got stuck at around 50,000 new cases per day, which went up to 60,000 the other day. And that’s really a risk.”
Both Walensky and Fauci are urging Americans to continue to follow commonsense measures like distancing and masking, while at the same time trying to express an understanding with those who are frustrated with the pace.
“I so badly want to be done, I know you all so badly want to be done,” Walensky added. “We are just almost there, but not quite yet. And so I am asking you to just hold on a little bit longer, to get vaccinated when you can so that all the people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.”