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President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

What they're saying: "We are watching these concerning data very closely to see where they will go over the next few days. But it’s important to remember where we are in the pandemic," Walensky said.

  • "Things are tenuous. Now is not the time to relax restrictions," she added.
  • "I want to be clear: Cases, hospital admissions, and deaths all remain very high, and the recent shift in the pandemic must be taken extremely seriously."

For his part, Biden said that "cases and hospitalizations could go back up as new variants emerge."

  • “And it’s not the time to relax. We have to keep washing our hands, staying socially distanced, and for God’s sake, wear your mask. It’s not a political statement. It’s a patriotic thing to do.”

The big picture: Walensky said the country is currently reporting a 7-day average of 66,350 COVID-19 cases and 2,000 per day, a slight increase from the seven-day averages reported by the CDC earlier this week.

  • "The latest data suggests that these declines may be stalling, potentially leveling off at, still, a very high number," she said.

Go deeper: About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas — Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. Economy: Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemicAmerica's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  7. Variant tracker
Feb 26, 2021 - Health

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

Feb 26, 2021 - Health

New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

New research is bolstering the case for delaying second doses of coronavirus vaccines.

Why it matters: Most vulnerable Americans remain unvaccinated heading into March, when experts predict the more infectious virus variant first found in the U.K. could become dominant in the U.S.

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