Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Joe Biden’s chief executive officer for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listens as Biden announces candidates and officers for his health and coronavirus response teams during a press conference at his transitional headquarters Wilmington, Delaware, December 8, 2020.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
Americans shouldn’t gather indoors with people outside their households to watch the Super Bowl this weekend to keep the coronavirus from spreading, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
“Whichever team you choose and which commercial is your favorite, be sure to watch the Super Bowl and only meet virtually or with the people you live with,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday at a Covid-19 briefing in the White House. “We have to take prevention and intervention seriously.”
Walensky noted that the number of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to decline and that the daily death toll is likely to follow. But she added, “This is not the time to let go of our watch.” She said new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus are threatening to reverse the country’s progress in fighting the outbreak.
The CDC has issued guidelines on how to safely watch the Super Bowl, urging people not to travel to parties. It has been said, “Meeting virtually or with people you live with is the safest choice.”
According to CDC instructions, if people choose to gather, they should wear a mask, practice physical distance, wash their hands frequently, and watch the big game in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.
Epidemiologists say the country is just recovering from a spate of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, largely caused by gatherings over Christmas, New Year, and other holidays in recent years. Infection levels remain worryingly high in much of the country, and inter-household gatherings for Sunday’s Super Bowl could lead to renewed spikes in some cases.
This is particularly worrying given that three other contagious variants of the virus have been discovered in the US that are of concern to federal health officials. The strain B.1.1.7 was discovered in the United Kingdom in autumn and is the dominant variant there. The B.1.351 was recently found in South Africa and has established itself in that country. The P.1 variant in Brazil has become the dominant Covid-19 strain there.
The US doesn’t do nearly as many genetic sequences as, say, the UK, which means it’s difficult to know exactly how widespread the variants are in the US. The CDC has confirmed more than 500 B.1.1.7 cases, three cases from B.1.351 and two cases from P.1 to date.
Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner, said in a telephone interview that the spread of the new variants could lead to an “exponential explosive spread” of the virus. She added that the nation is in a race to vaccinate people before the new strains take root in the United States
Jeff Zients, coordinator of President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 task force, said Wednesday that the new administration had increased the pace of vaccine distribution by 20% since the president took office. As vaccinations rise, some public health specialists say the government could do more to increase the number of Americans who are vaccinated each day.
According to the CDC, more than 52.6 million doses of the vaccines have been distributed to states, but fewer than 32.8 million doses have actually been given.
“We have triggered a response from the entire government. We have increased the vaccine supply. And we are making sure that all Americans in every community have more vaccination sites,” Zients said on Wednesday.