UPDATE 2- “Things Are Weak,” Says US CDC As Downtrend in COVID-19 Cases Stalls

(Add quotes from officials)

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) – The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that a recent decline in COVID-19 cases could be stalled, a development she described as worrisome. while urging that safeguards be maintained to combat the virus. instead.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters that the number of cases had increased over the past three days compared to the previous week and that decreases in hospitalizations and deaths were also “potentially stabilizing at a still very high number.”

Walensky painted a critical picture of the current state of the pandemic.

“Things are fragile. Now is not the time to relax restrictions. Cases, hospital admissions and deaths remain very high and the recent change in the pandemic must be taken very seriously. “

States and cities have been gradually lifting restrictions in recent weeks. New York City reopened the indoor dining room earlier this month and Massachusetts plans to remove limits on restaurant capacity starting in March. Montana and Iowa lifted statewide mask requirements earlier this month, while North Dakota’s mask mandate expired in January.

The White House urged companies on Friday to join forces to help fight the pandemic by requiring employees to wear masks and educating customers.

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House COVID-19 response team, listed a number of companies that were taking steps to help with the fight against the pandemic and urged more to join.

He announced what he described as a new partnership between the Biden administration and leading business organizations to spur the private sector to encourage companies to demand masks and social distancing to protect employees and customers, make it easier for employees to get vaccinated with incentives. and educate. to the public about the benefits of masks and vaccines.

“We are asking companies to amplify the CDC’s messages about masking and vaccines on their products, properties and websites,” Slavitt said.

Ford and The Gap were producing and donating millions of masks, he said, while Best Buy, Target and Dollar General were giving workers paid time off or compensating them to receive vaccines.

Uber, PayPal and Walgreens partnered to provide $ 10 million in free rides to vaccination sites, he said, while Lyft had partnered with CVS and the YMCA to provide $ 60 million in free or discounted rides to vaccination sites. .

The White House is working on a broad campaign to educate Americans about the vaccine as it seeks to control the pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden raised concerns that vaccine supplies will exceed demand later this spring due to concerns about vaccines.

Moderna Inc said Wednesday it is working with US government scientists to study an experimental booster vaccine that targets a worrisome new variant of the coronavirus.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the study, which will be run by the National Institutes of Health, will begin in mid-March and there was no plan yet to start manufacturing the experimental booster at scale, as It is unclear whether the new B1351 variant first encountered in South Africa will become a dominant variant in the United States.

Reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington and Carl O’Donnell in New York; Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert Edited by Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Heinrich


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