‘Not Out of the Jungle’: CDC Issues Fresh Warning About Virus

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WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Thursday that the United States is “not yet out of the woods” with the pandemic, and is once again “at a critical point” with the highly contagious Delta variant smashing unvaccinated. communities.

Just weeks after President Biden held a Fourth of July party in the South Garden of the White House declare independence from the virus, director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky described the now dominant variant as “one of the most contagious respiratory viruses” known to scientists.

The renewed sense of urgency within the administration has targeted tens of millions of people who have not yet been vaccinated and are therefore more likely to become infected and ill. His dreadful message came at a time of growing anxiety and confusion, especially among parents of young children who are still unfit to shoot. And he highlighted how quickly the latest wave of the pandemic has unsettled Americans who are beginning to believe the worst is over, prompting politicians and public health officials to scramble to recalibrate their responses.

“This is like the moment in a horror movie when you think the horror is over and the credits are about to roll,” said Maryland Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin. “And it all starts again.”

The decision by millions to refuse the vaccine has had the consequences that public health officials had predicted: The number of new cases in the country has increased by almost 250 percent since the beginning of the month, with an average of more than 41,000 infections diagnosed each. day during the past week — upwards of 12,000.

The disease caused by the virus is claiming about 250 lives each day – much less than last year’s peaks, but still 42 percent higher than two weeks ago. More than 97 percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, Dr. Walensky he said last week.

The public health crisis is particularly acute in parts of the country where vaccination rates are the lowest. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, the number of new daily cases has increased by more than 200 percent over the past two weeks, bringing new hospitalizations and deaths almost exclusively among the unvaccinated. intensive care units filled or filled in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

The turn forces both political parties in Washington to grapple—so far hesitantly and tentatively—with questions of what tone they should use, what kind of guidance they should provide, and what changes they should make to face the latest iteration of the worst public opinion. Health crisis in the 21st century.

The White House on Thursday announced new grants to local health offices for vaccines and increased testing in rural communities, but administration officials insisted there was no need to revisit their fundamentals, despite saying they were “making continued progress in our fight against the virus.” strategy. Although reports of so-called breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are increasing, they remain relatively rareand those that cause severe illness, hospitalization, or death are particularly so.

But even if mostly confined to people who choose not to be vaccinated, the rise in infections and hospitalizations in parts of the country presented Mr. Biden with an evolving challenge that could threaten his economic recovery and his own political standing.

The stock market is volatile. His administration is under new pressure to re-enforce mask orders. Los Angeles County did this week. And the president’s top aides are on the defensive over strategies to contain the pandemic.

“This is frustrating,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday night. A town hall incident on CNN.

The rise of the variant may also be changing the equation for some Republicans, those who saw many of their own constituency hospitalized – or worse. 2 House Republican, Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise took his first shot Sunday, noting “another spike” in the pandemic. “I believe in vaccine science,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said on the show.

On Capitol Hill on Thursday, House Republican leaders and elected doctors reluctantly showed their support for vaccines, though even that support was mixed.

“If you’re at risk, you should get this vaccine,” said Andy Harris, a physician, Maryland Representative. “We urge all Americans to talk to their doctors about the risks of Covid, to talk to their doctors about the benefits of getting vaccinated, and then coming to a decision.”

“This vaccine is a drug, and it has side effects like any other drug, and it’s a personal decision,” said Greg Murphy, Republican Representative of North Carolina.

The press conferences were advertised to “discuss individuals’ need to get vaccinated”. But it was dominated by Republican efforts to bolster an unproven theory about the accusations that China was releasing a deadly, man-made virus into the world and the Democrats were covering it up.

Vaccines work to keep those vaccinated out of serious danger, but the charts following the waning pandemic for months – heralded by Mr. Biden as proof that his approach is working – are now heading sharply upwards.

The rapid spread of the new variant has people questioning whether they need to step back from restaurants, cinemas, bars, sporting events and offices again. The choices that seemed clear and mostly positive just a few days ago now look muddy.

White House officials deflected questions Thursday about whether vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors, as health officials in Los Angeles County had ordered days ago. Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, said only that the current CDC guidance does not require it.

“It’s up to each American to do their part,” he said. “We know that everyone’s vaccination journey is different. We are ready to vaccinate more Americans whenever and wherever they are ready.”

Amid the worry, one thing is clear: The variant has once again dashed hopes for an end to the pandemic, and has raised new fears on the horizon – that the much-anticipated return to work and school may be interrupted after much of the country has spent spending it. about 18 months of stay-at-home seclusion.

“I’m worried about the decline,” said Representative Lauren Underwood, an Illinois Democrat and a registered nurse. “August will be tough. Back to school will be tough. We will see more sickness and more deaths.”

Andy Slavitt, a public health expert who recently left the Biden White House’s coronavirus response team, said the administration would not consider mandating vaccines to the military or federal workforce until the Food and Drug Administration gives permanent approval to the coronavirus vaccines currently in effect. under emergency use authorization.

However, Pfizer said final approval of the vaccine is “in weeks to months.” When that happens, he said, “everything should be on the table and I can tell you that this is the position in the White House.”

Public schools may require vaccination at this point as well as polio, measles, mumps and rubella, with some exceptions for religious or health reasons. This will rapidly increase vaccination rates.

Beyond mandates, there are few obvious policy changes as Congress funds health officials for vaccine campaigns and makes vaccines widely available. California Democrat Representative Ami Bera, a doctor, suggested that the Biden administration launch a public ad campaign in line with their smoking cessation campaign, in which a dying man once smoked from a tracheotomy.

“Let’s do an ad where a 20-year-old man says, ‘I didn’t take it seriously’. I took it and killed my grandmother,” he said.

Republicans have emphasized their refusal to go backwards.

“You don’t need to turn things off,” said Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas, a doctor. Look, as far as I know, not a single child under the age of 18 has died from Covid unless they have a serious health condition.”

Deaths in American children are extremely low – 346 as of July 15 – but some most likely did not have underlying health problems.

So far, Republicans have also resisted raising alarm bells among the conservative population. Kaiser Family Foundation reported at the end of June He said 86 percent of Democrats had at least one chance, compared to 52 percent of Republicans.

Policymakers feel nervous, in large part, because once Americans come back to life without masks and other restrictions, it will be difficult to come back. Vaccine and mask guidelines will almost certainly provoke a violent reaction, but they can also save lives.

“We all have this psychology, it’s over, but we know intellectually it’s not over,” said Majority Leader Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer. “How do we get a society that has a tremendous sense of being trapped in a mask and then set free to return?” Asked.

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