US official warns of ‘impending doom’ amid rise in COVID cases

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A top health official in the United States has warned of “impending doom” amid rising cases of COVID-19, even as the country continues to outpace expectations on vaccine distribution. During a news conference on Monday, Dr Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said she was “going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom”.

“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,” she told reporters. The US is averaging 63,000 new cases a day as of March 29, according to data from Johns Hopkins University – a rise that comes after a recent plateau in new infections.

Meanwhile, an average of 2.7 million vaccine jabs have been administered across the country per day during the last week. The CDC says more than 145.8 million vaccine doses have been administered as of Monday since the country’s vaccination drive began late last year, while 73 percent of seniors have received their first dose, according to the White House.

People wearing face protective masks walk on Hollywood Boulevard during the COVID-19 outbreak in Los Angeles, California [Mario Anzuoni/Reuters]

President Joe Biden said on Monday that 90 percent of all US adults will be eligible for the vaccine by April 19. “For the vast, vast majority of adults, you won’t have to wait until May 1. You’ll be eligible for your shot on April 19,” Biden said during a news conference on Monday.

Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the announcement was “good news”, but warned that Americans need to continue to follow public health guidelines. “We’re headed in the right direction. But we can’t slow down. Millions remain vaccinated and at risk,” Slavitt said. Some officials have criticized scaled-back mitigation measures as contributing to the increase in new cases.

Some states, such as Texas and Mississippi, have lifted restrictions and mask mandates in spite of CDC recommendations. Businesses are still able to enforce the restrictions. White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr Anthony Fauci told CBS on Sunday that the rise in cases could be attributed to “things like spring break and pulling back on the mitigation methods”.

Meanwhile, some have weighed the possibility of the US government issuing “vaccination passports” to allow those fully vaccinated to work and travel freely.

But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday the Biden administration would not issue a federal mandate for vaccine passports. “We believe it will be driven by the private sector,” Psaki said The US has reported more than 30.2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 549,000 coronavirus-related deaths as of Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

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