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'Right now, I'm scared': CDC director warns of rising COVID cases, hospitalizations

The CDC director warned the recent trajectory in the U.S. is similar to what European countries saw a few weeks ago before a consistent and worrying spike in cases.

WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on Americans to "sound the alarm" and work together to prevent a possible fourth surge of COVID-19

"We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I'm scared," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky described during Monday's White House COVID-19 briefing.

Walensky explained that the seven-day average for new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is up 10%, hospitalizations are rising and COVID-related deaths have increased to an average of 1,000 per day. 

She warned that the recent trajectory of the pandemic in the U.S. looks similar to what Italy, Germany and France saw just a few weeks ago before those countries experienced "a consistent and worrying spike in cases." 

Walensky described a recurring feeling of "impending doom." 

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"I know what it's like as a physician to stand in that patient room, gowned, gloved, masked, shielded, and to be the last person to touch someone else's loved one because their loved one couldn't be there," the CDC director explained. 

"We are not powerless, we can change this trajectory of the pandemic," Walensky declared, urging everyone to recommit to public health strategies while the country works to get everyone vaccinated.

During Monday's briefing, the CDC director also highlighted that a government study of real-world use of COVID-19 vaccines found their effectiveness was nearly as robust as it was in controlled studies. 

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"We have come such a long way, three historic scientific breakthrough vaccines and we are rolling them out so very fast. So I'm speaking today not necessarily as your CDC Director, and not only as your CDC Director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer. I so badly want to be done, I know you all so badly want to be done, we are just almost there but not quite yet."

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The United States has more than 30 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Monday, the U.S. had nearly 550,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 127 million confirmed cases with more than 2.7 million deaths.