Walensky: US 'heading in the right direction' but must stay 'vigilant'

Walensky: US 'heading in the right direction' but must stay 'vigilant'
© Greg Nash

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskySunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant CDC working to tighten testing requirement for international travelers Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Omicron sets off a flurry of responses MORE said Wednesday the U.S. is "heading in the right direction" but must stay "vigilant" as the winter approaches.

Walensky reported during a briefing that the seven-day daily average of COVID-19 cases has declined to about 65,900 per day as of Tuesday, a 16 percent reduction from last week.

“Down from our peak in early September, we are now heading in the right direction,” she said. “But with cases still high, we must remain vigilant heading into the colder, drier winter months.”

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Hospitalizations and deaths have also dropped from peaks in recent months, with COVID-19 hospital admissions falling 54 percent since the last week of August, when the highly transmissible delta variant was pummeling the country.

The seven-day average for hospitalizations reached about 5,500 per day this week in a 12 percent decrease from the previous week.

While the death rate has dropped, Walensky noted that the average for daily deaths still remains higher than 1,000 fatalities, with a 1,100 average reported Tuesday.

In recent days, the CDC director emphasized that Americans "can't be complacent" amid the decline in COVID-19 cases and need to keep up masking while also getting more people vaccinated.

The CDC director reiterated her push for the approximately 63 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves, saying the hospitalization rate is 12 times higher among the unvaccinated. Agency data has also shown that the unvaccinated have an 11 times higher risk of dying from the virus.

Still, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Biden administration to ship 11 million vaccine doses abroad First US omicron case detected in California MORE cited “important progress” in the Biden administration’s efforts, including through vaccinations, booster doses, plans to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds and endeavors to boost access to at-home tests.

“We are making important progress,” he said. “The president's plan is working. We remain focused on the execution required to move us forward on our path out of this pandemic.”