Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday night that increasing Covid-19 case numbers and variants led to her emotional warning of “impending doom” around Covid-19 during a White House Covid-19 briefing earlier in the day.
“I’m watching the cases tick up, I’m watching us have increased numbers of hyper-transmissible variants, I’m watching our travel numbers tick up, and the sense is, I’ve seen what it looks like to anticipate the oncoming surge,” Walensky told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. “And what I would really hate to have happen is to have another oncoming surge, just as we’re reaching towards getting so many more people vaccinated, you know, we’re still losing people at 1,000 deaths a day.”
“I just can’t face another surge when there’s so much optimism right at our fingertips,” she said.
Covid-19 variants are a key cause for concern, in particular B.1.1.7, the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, she said.
While it’s possible that variants could evolve in such a way that they develop vaccine resistance and there is enough of them circulating that the US can’t get ahead of it, Walensky said that she doesn’t think the US is there right now.
“We do know that this hyper transmissible variant that we’re most worried about, the B.1.1.7 that originated in the UK, is now about 26% of all circulating virus around the United States right now,” she said, adding that it is dominating in some regions.
“That is concerning,” she said. “What we do know is that so far, it appears that the B.1.1.7 is neutralized by our current vaccines, but that is among our concerns, that if you have enough virus circulating, those variants can mutate even more and lead to sort of more troublesome variants in the future, which is why we just really want to stop the circulation of virus.”