President Joe Biden laid out hopeful new steps Monday to expand coronavirus vaccinations but also echoed the stern warnings of a top public health official who told Americans she has a recurring feeling of “impending doom” that a fourth wave of the virus may be on its way.
Cases of the virus are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
She warned that without immediate action the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths.
"We still are in a war with this deadly virus and we're bolstering our defenses, but this war is far from won. Together, we have so much to be proud of in the past three weeks, passed more than three weeks, past 10 weeks. We also have so much to be sorrowful about," he said.
"Nearly 1,000 Americans a day are still dying from COVID-19 as we approach 550,000 deaths in a single year."
The president addressed the nation from the White House Monday, declaring, “if we let our guard down now, we can see the virus getting worse, not better. People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing.”
'This is not politics'
Biden delivered a direct appeal to governors, state and local leaders to reinstate mask-wearing requirements if they have eased them.
“Please, this is not politics, reinstate the mandate if you let it down," he said.
Biden announced that by April 19 at least 90% of the adult U.S. population would be eligible for vaccination - and would have access to a vaccination site within 5 miles of home.
Quick vaccination would still depend on supply as well as overcoming some people's hesitancy about the shots.
Biden had previously directed that all states make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1, but many have moved to lift eligibility requirements sooner in anticipation of supply increases.
Meanwhile, the White House was moving to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal retail pharmacy program - which has emerged as among the most efficient avenues for administering vaccines - and increase the number of doses for them to deliver.
The retail pharmacies are located in close proximity to most Americans and have experience delivering vaccines like flu shots.
Biden announced that the U.S. was expecting delivery of 33 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week - including 11 million doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.