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CDC Director: States Should Not Lift Restrictions, Could Lose 'Hard-Earned' Ground

Dr. Rochelle Walensky warns it's too soon to remove restrictions and mask mandates.
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"We begin with a sober warning from the CDC director," Alysin Camerota said.

Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. Now is not the time to relax.

"Here's why she's saying that," Camerota said. "After falling for weeks, new coronavirus cases are plateauing at a very high level. This could be caused by the highly contagious new variants. This as a lot of states are easing their restrictions, reopening restaurants, theaters and they're entirely removing some indoor dining restrictions. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson's newly approved single dose vaccine could start going into arms today, but the amount available is much lower than originally promised."

"Joining us is Ashish Jha, head of Brown University School of Public Health. Do you agree with Director Walensky that we could erase all of the gains we have made since the vaccines came on board, if we don't watch what we do over the next few weeks?"

"Yes, good morning and thanks for having me on. The reason she's right is, while things are way better than they were about a month and a half ago, the level of infection in the country right now is the same as at the peak of the summer surge. We're not like in great shape. And we have variants. And variants are starting to take over. If they become dominant and we relax restrictions, I think we can absolutely see a huge spike that will really lead to a lot more suffering. Rochelle Walensky is right," Jha said.

"They are easing restrictions. Massachusetts is easing restrictions on in-person dining," John Berman said. "North Carolina's doing the same.

"Other states are lifting mask mandates. It's happening. it's happening right now. So I guess we're going to see. It's a heck of an experiment with something like this. I want to read a quote from Dr. Ashish Jha. You say, 'I'm very bullish on where we'll be in May, June and July, but March, April look like tough months that we still have to get through. So why bearish now, bullish later?"

Jha said he was bullish because of the vaccinations. "We've got a bunch already in people's arms. We're gonna have a lot more vaccines in March and April. By the end of April, certainly anybody who wants a vaccine probably will be able to get one. Certainly by May if not by the end of April. That leads to a lot of vaccinated people, low levels of infection by the time we get to into the summer," Jha said.

"The problem is between now and then, and we've just discussed it. We've got a high level of infection. We have states easing restrictions, which they should not be doing at this time. And we've got the variants that are circulating that are a lot more infectious. Put all that together and can't help but worry about where we're gonna be for the next couple of months."

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