CDC director warns of 'avoidable surge' of COVID-19 amid relaxing precautions

CDC director warns of 'avoidable surge' of COVID-19 amid relaxing precautions
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyCDC's Walensky is the wrong media messenger on COVID-19  New mask guidelines trigger backlash US vaccinations tick up as delta variant spreads MORE on Monday warned of an "avoidable surge" in COVID-19 cases if people do not take sufficient precautions.

"We must find the fortitude to hang in there for just a little bit longer," Walensky said during a White House press briefing. "We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road, where we as a country must decide which path we are going to take."

Europe is currently seeing a new wave of cases as it struggles with a slower pace of vaccinations and with more infectious variants of the virus. Walensky pointed to the rise of the variants and said a similar situation could play out here.

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"We must act now and I am worried that if we don't take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination," she said.

She urged states to maintain restrictions and for individuals to keep taking precautions like wearing masks, avoiding crowds and avoiding travel for a little while longer until a wider share of the population is vaccinated.

The warnings come as crowds of people on spring break flock to South Florida, forcing the city of Miami Beach to extend a curfew.

"What I saw down in Miami, it didn't look like a whole bunch of vaccinated people, but I could be wrong," White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt said.

The country has plateaued at a high level of about 50,000 new cases per day, highlighting the fact that there is still a large amount of virus circulating.

Deaths have fallen as more vulnerable people get vaccinated, but there are still around 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. every day.

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Walensky noted on Monday that while it is good news that death rates are falling, it is still possible for younger people to die from the virus, even if they are less likely to, so continued high levels of cases still pose a risk.

Sixty-nine percent of people over age 65 have now received at least one vaccine shot and 42 percent are fully vaccinated, she said.

While vaccinations are ramping up, administration officials declined to say if Johnson & Johnson would meet the goal it previously set of delivering 20 million doses by the end of March.