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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky went off script at a briefing Monday and made an emotional plea to Americans not to let up on public health measures amid fears of a fourth wave.

What they're saying: “I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," Walensky said, appearing to hold back tears. "We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge."

Driving the news: The White House coronavirus response team is seeking to confront the current dichotomy in the U.S., in which immense optimism from the speed of the vaccine rollout must be balanced with continued restraint in moving forward with normalcy.

  • "The thing that’s different this time is we actually have it in our power to be done with this scale of vaccination and that will be so much slower if we have another surge to deal with as well," Walensky said.
  • “I’m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer. I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, but not quite yet."

The big picture: Coronavirus cases are rapidly rising in places including Michigan, New York, New Jersey and other Northeastern states, partially a result of variants of the virus becoming more widespread, experts say. An uptick in travel and states loosening restrictions are also factors.

  • The 7-day daily average of new cases increased 10.6% from the previous week to 59,773, while the 7-day daily average of deaths increased 2.6% to 968.
  • Even though a remarkable 72% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, millions of Americans — particularly younger Americans with underlying conditions — remain vulnerable.

What to watch: Walensky said she is speaking with governors tomorrow to address the rise in cases.

  • "We’re essentially pleading with people even though we have an urge particularly with the warm weather to just cut loose," NIAID director Anthony Fauci said.
  • "We’ve just got to hang in there a bit longer," he said. "I think the reason we’re seeing this plateauing and the increase that I hope doesn’t turn into a surge is because we are really doing things prematurely right now with regard to opening up."

Go deeper

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

Millions of Americans remain vulnerable as variants drive up cases

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in several states, partially a result of variants of the virus becoming more widespread, experts say.

Why it matters: Even though a remarkable 72% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, millions of Americans — particularly younger Americans with underlying conditions — remain vulnerable.

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

The quest to create vaccine passports

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration is working alongside private companies to create "vaccine passports" that would allow Americans to prove they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Many companies have said they'll require proof of vaccination as part of reopening.

Mar 28, 2021 - Health

New Jersey parents sue school districts to force them to reopen

A student has their temperature taken while entering a New York City public high school in New York, U.S., on Monday, March 22, 2021. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Successful lawsuits waged by parents in three New Jersey school districts have prompted returns to some in-person classes, and invited interest from parents across the state seeking to do the same, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Parents in 30 districts in New Jersey have sought guidance from the plaintiffs in the original suits on how to organize similar efforts, illustrating the frustration of parents who feel virtual schooling has left their children "anxious, lonely and losing their zest for learning" the Journal writes.