As some states roll back pandemic shutdowns, US health officials worry about losing ground against the virus.
Cases and deaths due to the coronavirus disease are back on the rise in the United States, federal health officials said on Monday, amid rising concerns over the spread of new variants and difficulties for many people in booking vaccination appointments.
In a coronavirus task force news conference, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, said after weeks of decline, cases and deaths have both risen at a rate of more than 2 percent over the past seven days.
“Recent declines in cases have levelled off,” Walensky said. “These data are evidence that our recent decline appears to be stalling.”
On average, 67,200 new cases are detected every day, and more than 2,000 are dying due to the disease, she said. More than 513,000 Americans have died from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, more than any other country in the world.
Amid these figures, more states and localities are loosening pandemic-related restrictions, a development that Walensky said concerns her.
“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,” Walensky 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.”
Officials on Monday said the nation is currently administering on average 1.7 million doses per day. According to the CDC website, more than 75 million have been vaccinated so far. But the rate is still well short of the required rate to allow the US to fully reopen its economy.
US President Joe Biden has pledged to vaccinate 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office. On Friday, his administration commemorated the halfway mark of 50 million doses, and said they are ahead of schedule to meet that goal.
In an effort to further boost the campaign, the US gave emergency approval to use a third COVID-19 vaccine produced by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently being administered, the J&J vaccine requires only a single shot.
Officials said shipments of J&J vaccines began on Monday and the company’s chief executive officer Alex Gorsky told NBC on Monday that Americans will be able to receive their vaccine in the next 24 to 48 hours.
But during the coronavirus task force news conference on Monday, White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients said that for many Americans, scheduling an appointment remains difficult.
“I think scheduling an appointment is difficult, remains too difficult in too many places,” he said. “Overall, too many Americans are suffering frustration, taking up way too much time to schedule an appointment.”
From the onset of the campaign, people have complained that websites to schedule appointments would crash or malfunction, and people with appointments were being turned away amid insufficient doses.
Officials on Monday said with the introduction of the J&J vaccine, supply issues are expected to improve.