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Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool via Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Monday she's concerned the U.S. could experience "another avoidable surge" in coronavirus infections due to new variants, if people don't follow mitigation measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.

Why it matters: A growing number of states have moved to reopen despite the spread of new variants. States are increasingly attributing their coronavirus cases to variants, Walensky noted.

  • B.1427 and B.1429 are estimated to comprise 52% of cases in California, 41% in Nevada and 25% in Arizona, according to Walensky.
  • The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., is estimated to account for 9% of cases in New Jersey and 8% in Florida.

What she's saying: "We must act now, and I am worried that if we don't take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge — just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination," Walensky said.

  • "We are looking at these data, we're reaching out to individual states, trying to encourage them," Walensky added.
  • "We are having weekly governors' calls. We're doing outreach with states, territories to encourage them to look at their case data, to look at what's happening with the variants and to do as much outreach as we can to try and slow down the relaxation."

The big picture: One in six U.S. adults has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

  • The U.S. has seen a steady downward trend in the number of daily cases since January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Go deeper

Sep 18, 2021 - Health

Most Kentucky school boards vote in favor of mask mandates

Photo: Paul Bersebach, MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A majority of school boards in Kentucky voted in favor of mask mandates, according to the Kentucky School Board Association.

Why it matters: A week ago, Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature voted to revoke a statewide mask mandate in public schools that was meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision on masks would instead be left up to individual districts.

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

CDC: Moderna vaccine most effective against hospitalization in U.S.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Overall healthy adults with the Moderna COVID vaccine had 93% vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization over five months compared to those with 88% protection with Pfizer and 71% from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a new report out Friday from the CDC shows.

Why it matters: The report comes as the Food and Drug Administrations meets Friday to consider whether to endorse a contentious plan for booster shots among the fully vaccinated.

Sep 18, 2021 - Health

Mississippi reports rise in COVID-19 deaths among pregnant women

Dr. Thomas Dobbs speaks during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2020. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

At least eight pregnant women in Mississippi, who weren't fully vaccinated, have died of COVID-19 since late July, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The eight pregnant women who have died from the virus more than doubles the state's pandemic total in just two months.