Three words no girl wants to hear? “Potential fourth surge.”
Unfortunately, I just read these terrifying words in the Guardian, where Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is quoted, informing Americans of such a possibility.
“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Walensky said during a White House press briefing on Monday. The emphasis that follows is mine: “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close. We have the ability to stop a potential fourth surge of cases in this country.”
Cases have been steadily declining, for the most part, since mid-January. But as Walensky notes, new covid strains threaten to send them soaring again. Of particular concern is a highly contagious UK variant of the virus, which the CDC predicts will become the dominant variant in the United States this month. Researchers say a different strain currently spreading in New York—where Governor Andrew Cuomo has allowed movie theaters to reopen—may also weaken the effectiveness of covid vaccines.
Though no fourth wave has materialized yet, the prospect alone is devastating. With vaccine distribution significantly improving over the last few weeks, it feels like the end of the pandemic is near, though it’s easy to remember how many other times we’ve thought that and been wrong.
But this is not to downplay all of the other reasons to be hopeful. It remains the case that the end of the pandemic is in sight, so long as we—and by “we” I really mean public health and elected officials—make sure Walensky’s harrowing warning does not come true.