While COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are trending down after months of surges, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still incredibly concerned that the worst could still be ahead. During a Wednesday interview with JAMA, she discussed the biggest threat to society right now, issuing a stark warning to the country. Read on to find out what it is—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Dr. Walensky Warns That Viruses Mutate and We Can’t Detect Them Quickly
Dr. Walensky explained that while it is no surprise that COVID-19 mutated, it’s in a direction that is not in our best interest. “We’ve known for a really long time that viruses mutate, and when they mutate, they mutate to some advantage of the virus,” she explained. “Whether that advantage we think about is increased transmissibility, which many of them have shown, whether it is increased morbidity and mortality, increase virulence, which we’re starting to try and understand, or whether it’s because they can evade our therapeutics or our vaccines, our immunity. We are starting to see these.”
However, she pointed out that as they have been emerging, “we did not yet have the capacity to detect them, to understand their impact and to understand, what we were going to do with the information, how we were going to stop them from emerging,” which is proving to be problematic.
Dr. Walensky Warned That the Variant Will Become the Dominant Strain
Dr. Walensky fears that because of the increased transmissibility of these variants, it is likely they could be dominant by spring, resulting in another virus surge. And, because many are suffering from COVID fatigue, they are already letting their guard down.
“The CDC models have projected that by March the B117 variant is likely to be the dominant strain and that’s more transmissible,” she points out. “I worry that it will be spring and we will all have had enough—already some states have loosened the mask mandates. People are sort of resting on the fact that the numbers are starting to look better.”
Dr. Walensky Fears People Will Resist the Vaccine Because Cases are Decreasing
This could result in some people resisting the vaccine. “Around that time, I worry that life will feel and look a little bit better. And the motivation for those who don’t, who might be vaccine hesitant will be diminished. At some point there’s going to be an inflection point of, there will be more vaccine when we have people who want to take it. And at that point we still need to be scaling up vaccination.”
Dr. Walensky Says When We Return to “Normal” Depends on Us
Ultimately, what the pandemic looks like in terms of severity will depend on how people respond and whether they abide by the suggested fundamentals. “How this goes is going to depend on 330 million individuals: are they going to continue to wear their mask through this? And are they gonna roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated through this? Because, while I really am hopeful for what could happen in March and April, I really do know this could go bad so fast. And we saw it in November. We saw it in December. We saw what could happen.”
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How to Stay Safe During This Pandemic
So follow Walensky’s fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.