The United States, which has reported almost 30 million cases of coronavirus so far, the highest in the world, is heading toward a fourth wave of the virus, the head of the national public health agency has warned.
The rapid surge in new cases and the detection of new variants in several states has contributed to the fears of another wave, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dr. Walensky on Monday said that the US is at a “fork in the road” in the pandemic, as the vaccination drive gains momentum.
She cited many reasons for the alarming trend, including the daily cases of COVID-19 hovering between 50,000 and 60,000, new hospital admissions between 4,500 and 5,000 a day, and deaths from the virus continuing to be high.
The senior health official said some states and regions, such as the Northeast and upper Midwest, are seeing “a significant rise in cases” even as coronavirus variants are “spreading rapidly.”
The B.1.427 and B.1.429 variants, first identified in California, account for 52 percent of total cases in California, 41 percent in Nevada, and 25 percent in Arizona.
The B.1.1.7. variant, which was first found in the UK, is causing 9 percent of the cases in New Jersey and 8 percent in Florida, Walensky added.
“Taken together, these statistics should serve as a warning sign for the American people,” she said.
On high rate of hospital admissions over the last two weeks, she said the trend is “very concerning,” and called for immediate action to pre-empt “another avoidable surge.”
“The continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases aren't are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States as a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation,” the official noted.
According to data released by John Hopkins University, more than half of US states have seen a surge in new cases in the last two weeks.
The US could be going the way of Europe, Walensky warned, where cases have again seen a sharp spike in recent weeks, driven by new variants.
Walensky's warning comes as the country ramps up its vaccination drive, with almost 25 percent of the total population receiving at least one dose of the virus, and almost 13.5 percent receiving both doses, according to CDC data.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, has warned that a surge of coronavirus cases is on the way in the country, urging his countrymen to “remain cautious.”
Earlier, in a surprise move, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it had been notified by the trial’s data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) that “it was concerned by information released by AstraZeneca on initial data from its COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.”
“The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the NIAID said in a statement.
AstraZeneca said it would publish more data on its US clinical trial “within 48 hours.”
The US has so far recorded 29.9 million cases of the virus with over 543 thousand deaths since the outbreak last year.
The previous US administration headed by Donald Trump had faced blistering criticism for failing to handle the pandemic, allowing the cataclysmic virus to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.
The new administration, while announcing several measures to contain the further spread of the virus, has looked clueless so far, even as new infections and deaths pile up.
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