CDC Director warns US could be hit with a fourth wave of the pandemic

The CDC says 29% of US adults have had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 16% are now fully vaccinated.

Yet, after weeks of falling infection rates, new case numbers once again rising, with the US averaging over 60,000 new infections a day.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says she is growing increasingly concerned the country could be hit by a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Walensky issued a stark warning to Americans the US could see a repeat of prior surges in the summer and winter, in which new cases dropped, hit a plateau, and then surged.

"I'm going to pause here," Dr. Walensky says.  "I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom."

The U.S. is averaging about 2.7 million vaccinations a day, racing to get out ahead of the spread of new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus.

Dr. Walensky says the CDC is concerned the combination of the new variants, a major jump in travel, and the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in some states could reverse the progress the country is making with vaccinations.

"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 says.

Microbiologist Dr. Amber Schmidtke, Ph.D., who writes a newsletter about the pandemic in Georgia,  says she respects the personal sentiment Dr. Walensky shared.

"We don't want to be alarmist," Schmidtke says. "But, there are times when alarm is necessary."

Schmidtke says she is not overly concerned about a surge in infections in Georgia in the near future because the state’s case numbers have been steadily dropping.

"But, we are seeing trends that are very concerning for the Upper Midwest and the Northeast," Schmidtke says.  "We know the more transmissible variants have taken ahold there and are growing in their dominance."

Just over 10,000 cases of B.1.1.7. variant, which is thought to be 50% more transmissible

and able to cause more severe infections, have been detected in the US.

Georgia has detected 558 cases of the variant, which first surfaced in the UK.

The B 1.1.7. strain is thought to make up about 30% of all US cases, and it could be the dominant strain circulating in the country by early April.

Schmidtke says it is not clear if the surge in the Midwest and Northeast will remain a regional issue, or expand to other areas, as we saw with the winter surge.

"But what we have seen in the past is that, when you are at a plateau of a high case count, if a surge does happen, it has a tendency to go really big, and really fast. I think Georgia should really take this as a reminder that the pandemic is not over."

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