The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Monday of “impending doom” in the U.S. as COVID-19 cases begin to rise again across the country, with hospitalizations and deaths following behind.
“I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House coronavirus press briefing. “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 reported a 10% average increase in COVID-19 cases across the country over the last seven days compared to the same prior period. Deaths have also started to increase by 2.6% and hospitalizations by 4.2%.
“When we see that uptick in cases, what we’ve seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge and surge big,” she said. She also likened the nation’s trajectory to surges being seen in Europe following a similar stagnation of cases.
Walensky partially blamed the case rise on increasing travel and certain regions opening up too quickly. She also suggested that a new variant of the virus, B117, may be contributing to the rise since it is more transmissible.
She urged Americans to “just hold on a little longer” and to get vaccinated as soon as they can.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, also shared his concern about another case surge due to states loosening safety precautions.
“We are really doing things prematurely right now with regard to opening up,” he said.
As part of his presentation, Fauci showcased the physical toll that the virus can have on the human body by showing off a pair of lungs belonging to a healthy person as well as the lungs of a person seriously infected. Fauci described the infected patient as someone he made rounds on at the NIH Clinical Center in Maryland last week.
“Even with the patient being under the top medical care that we’re giving them at our hospital, [they] still may very likely have residual scarring of the lung after improvement,” he said of the individual.
He also showed pieces of a brain belonging to a person who was infected with the virus, in an effort to showcase the neurological effects the virus can have.
“Bottom line: This is a very serious disease that has already led to the death of about 550,000 people in the United States,” he said.