For many Americans, it may feel like we’re already in the final stretch of the pandemic. With over 25 million people in the U.S. fully vaccinated and COVID cases on a largely downward trajectory, there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, many health experts have warned against celebrating prematurely. Recently, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, MD, warned that we could soon be experiencing a fourth wave of COVID. Keep reading to find out what she thinks could lead to another outbreak, and for more on the current state of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Just Said That He’s Worried About COVID in These 2 States.
New strains and a lack of precautions could cause a fourth wave of COVID.
During a March 1 White House COVID-19 Task Force press conference, Walensky made the risk of another COVID surge clear. “I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic,” she said. However, she noted that there are ways to avoid another wave. “We have the ability to stop a potential fourth surge of cases in this country.”
Walensky pointed to the new variants and the absence of necessary public health precautions as the two things that could fuel a fourth wave of the pandemic. And for essential vaccine guidance, Dr. Fauci Just Said Don’t Take This Medication With the COVID Vaccine.
The coronavirus variants could undo all of our progress on containment.
“The most recent seven-day average of cases, approximately 67,200, represents an increase of a little over 2 percent compared to the prior seven days,” Walensky said. ABC News reported that prior to this jump in cases, the U.S. had seen a six-week decline in cases. The CDC director attributes this increase, in part, to the new strains of COVID circulating around the country. “Please hear me clearly—at this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress,” she continued.
On March 3, Reuters reported that scientists are feeling less optimistic about the trajectory of the pandemic in recent weeks due to the variants. According to Reuters, health experts predict the virus will continue to “cause a significant burden of illness and death for years to come,” so long as variants are circulating.
White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, told Reuters that even after his vaccination, he still plans to wear a mask if there are variants circulating. “All you need is one little flick of a variant [sparking] another surge, and there goes your prediction” about when life gets back to normal, he said. And for more on the current spread of coronavirus, COVID Numbers Are Now Spiking Again in These 10 States.
Rolling back precautions could also contribute to a fourth wave.
“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” Walensky said. “I understand the temptation to do this: 70,000 cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago, but we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths.”
Walensky’s comments come as several states have announced relaxed coronavirus restrictions, including repealing mask mandates and reopening businesses at 100 percent capacity. According to ABC News, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Texas have all dropped mitigation measures.
“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close,” Walensky added. “Please stay strong in your conviction. Continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention acts that we know work.” And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Vaccination is what will ultimately put an end to the pandemic.
Walensky said that vaccination is what will eventually bring the pandemic to a close, but she stressed that in order to do that, we need to vaccinate many more people, which will not happen overnight.
Fauci expressed a similar sentiment on Jan. 21 during his first White House press briefing under the new administration. He explained that vaccination is the key to preventing the creation of new strains. “Viruses don’t mutate unless they replicate,” he said. We can suppress the replication of the virus with “a very good vaccine campaign, then you could actually avoid this deleterious effect that you might get from the mutations.” And for more on vaccination, Doctors Are Warning You to “Be Prepared” for This After Your Second Dose.