Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Alrtia — Booster shots get bipartisan rollout Biden gets vaccine booster shot, calls it 'safe and effective' Biden to receive booster shot today MORE on Monday urged states against lifting coronavirus restrictions, citing the ongoing virus threat and more contagious variants on the rise despite lower case counts overall.
Walensky was asked at a White House press briefing about Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) ending the state's mask mandate, as well as social distancing requirements for bars and restaurants, last week.
"I would discourage any such activity," Walensky said. "We are still in the first 100 days where we want, certainly, everybody masked for the first 100 days."
"We have yet to control this pandemic," she added. "We still have this emerging threat of variants, and I would just simply discourage any of those activities. We really need to keep all of the mitigation measures at play here if we're really going to get control of this pandemic."
While Iowa has drawn attention for one of the more drastic steps, other states are also easing restrictions, but in a more gradual way. New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Arizona recount to show Trump's loss by even wider margin Former co-worker accuses Chris Cuomo of sexual harassment in NYT essay NY health chief criticized over state's COVID-19 response resigns MORE (D) is reopening indoor dining in New York City at 25 percent capacity ahead of Valentine's Day.
Experts warn that a more contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom threatens to reverse recent progress and cause a new spike in cases and hospitalizations.
While new cases dropped below 100,000 in a day on Sunday for the first time since the fall, cases are still extremely high.
A study released on Sunday found the U.K. variant is doubling every 10 days in the U.S. and is expected to become the dominant strain by March.
"Although hospital admissions and cases are consistently dropping, I'm asking everyone to please keep your guard up," Walensky said. "The continued proliferation of variants remains of great concern and is a threat that could reverse the recent positive trends we are seeing."
She urged people to wear a mask, stay six feet apart from others, and avoid travel, crowds and poorly ventilated areas.