Health chief frets over 'impending doom' in US

2021-03-31 12:04:48

  A volunteer helps to fix a woman's mask while distributing fresh produce during a pop-up food pantry at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, New York on March 30, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] US President Joe Biden on Monday called on local officials to keep or reinstate mask requirements and pause reopenings of their economies as the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said she has a sense of "impending doom" because of the rising number of daily coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and the COVID-19 death rate. "If we let our guard down now, we could see a virus getting worse, not better. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down," he said, calling it a "patriotic duty" that is crucial to the nation's fight against the disease. Biden spoke a few hours after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky described a "recurring feeling I have of impending doom" as infections once again are on the rise. She said at a White House briefing daily infections are up 10 percent from a week ago, hospitalizations are again rising, and deaths, a lagging indicator, averaged nearly 1,000 per day last week after four consecutive days below 850. Walensky also expressed concern about increasing travel, saying US citizens should limit trips to essential occasions. The pace of vaccinations is on the rise. The CDC reported three straight days of more than 3 million vaccine doses administered, including a record of nearly 3.5 million shots on Saturday. Biden said on Monday that 90 percent of US adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by April 19, and vaccination sites would be within 8 kilometers of an individual's home. Despite vaccinations going up, the number of new infections in New Jersey increased by 37 percent in more than a month, to about 23,600 new cases every seven days. In New York, daily cases have averaged about 50,000 people per week since mid-February. The country has so far reported 30,331,794 confirmed cases and 550,036 deaths since the start of the outbreak, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. In neighboring Canada, the government is suspending the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 55 following concerns it may be linked to rare blood clots. Safety concerns The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended the pause for safety reasons. The Canadian provinces, which administer health in the country, announced the suspensions on Monday. The AstraZeneca shot, which has been authorized in more than 70 countries, is a pillar of a UN-backed project known as COVAX that aims to get COVID-19 vaccines to countries in need. Several Asian countries scrambled to find alternative sources for inoculations on Tuesday after export restrictions by manufacturer India left the global vaccine sharing program short of supplies. South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines are among countries to be hit by shipment delays to vaccines they have been promised under the COVAX program. "Our planned increase in daily vaccinations will be affected," Carlito Galvez, the vaccination chief in the Philippines, told reporters. India, one of world's biggest vaccine makers, put a temporary hold on exports of AstraZeneca's vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, as officials focus on meeting rising domestic demand. The Serum Institute was due to deliver 90 million vaccine doses to COVAX over March and April. While it was not immediately clear how many would be diverted for domestic use, program officials warned shipment delays were inevitable. Minlu Zhang in New York and agencies contributed to this story.