Story at a glance
- Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned against reopening too quickly as vaccines are still being distributed.
- She spoke honestly and personally about her fears of yet another wave of coronavirus cases.
- The interview marked a change in tone for the agency since transitioning from the Trump administration to the Biden administration.
If you’ve felt a sense of “impending doom” throughout the coronavirus pandemic, you’re not the only one. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shared her concerns about a potential new wave of COVID-19 if Americans don’t continue to take preventive measures seriously.
“Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth and I have to hope and trust you will listen,” Walensky said. “I’m going to pause here. I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”
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CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky goes off script with an emotional plea to the public about an “impending doom” following rise in COVID cases:
“Right now, I’m scared.”pic.twitter.com/UKjrRhr7He
— The Recount (@therecount) March 29, 2021
Her brutal honesty and pessimism marked a shift in tone for the agency’s leadership since the beginning of the pandemic. Under the Trump administration, public health officials told CNN “there was a group that really believed this wasn’t as big of a deal as we were making it” and the agency has been criticized for mixed messages about the seriousness of the pandemic and precautionary measures. Now, the Biden administration has resumed regular COVID-19 briefings with CDC officials, including Walensky.
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“We do not have the luxury of inaction,” Walensky said, adding that “when we see that uptick in cases, what we have seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge, and surge big.”
The admission was also a humanizing moment for the American public, which has not only been dealing with the physical but also mental consequences of the coronavirus pandemic over the last year. Countries where women are the heads of government have seen better COVID-19 outcomes and a recent study found that differing communication methods, including women’s tendency to use empathy and personal examples to unite the public, may have played a role.
“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 said.
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