WASHINGTON — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fall around the country, federal officials are warning states not to relax restrictions on dining out and other social activities that can lead to more spread of the virus.
“We have yet to control this pandemic,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on Monday. The three waves of infection last year showed that the virus does rebound when people more mobile.
Walensky said she would discourage any idea or move that would relax restrictions on social distancing. The nation is coming down from the wave of infections that began in November and crested in January, but Walensky says the background level of cases remains dangerously high.
White House officials say they are communicating their concerns to state governors and public health departments, but senior adviser Andy Slavitt says it would be counterproductive to detail those conversation in public.
The White House coronavirus response team held a briefing on Monday, highlighting the process the U.S. is making on fighting the pandemic and distributing vaccinations.
The meeting included health officials Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Andy Slavitt, Senior Advisor to the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
"We have been battling this pandemic for a better part of a year," Slavitt said to begin the meeting. "For more than 450,000 Americans, their lives have been taken. We've been separated from our friends and family. Thousands of schools and businesses have been sitting empty."
Slavitt added, "Americans have had their lives turned upsidedown by the pandemic."
He continued to congratulate the millions of Americans who have diligently been wearing a mask in public and taking other steps to slow the spread of the virus and get the world back to normal. He continued by explaining how the vaccination process is working.
"The nation's efforts are being focused on many who are most at risk of hospitalization or death from this virus," Slavitt said. "The elderly, seniors, frontline healthcare workers and many essential workers."
So far, the U.S. has administered 4.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 3.7 million Americans, health officials said. Most of the Americans receiving the vaccine have been over the age of 65, Slavitt said.
"Each day we are putting forth efforts to increase vaccine supply... to create more places to get vaccinated, including new large community vaccination centers and retail pharmacies, and mobilize more vaccinators by allowing retired physicians and nurses and deploying the military," Slavitt said.
These briefings, set for three times a week, are part of Biden’s attempt to rebuild trust and mobilize Americans to follow health guidance on the coronavirus and to break down public resistance to the vaccine.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The United States has nearly 27 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Monday, the U.S. had more than 464,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 106 million confirmed cases with more than 2.3 million deaths.