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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

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Sep 16, 2021 - Health

Gottlieb: CDC hampered U.S. response to COVID

The CDC moved too slowly at several points in the coronavirus pandemic, ultimately hindering the U.S. response, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes in a new book, Uncontrolled Spread.

The big picture: The book argues that American intelligence agencies should have a much bigger role in pandemic preparedness, even if that's sometimes at the expense of public health agencies like the CDC.

15 hours ago - Health

Worsening crisis at Rikers Island jail spurs calls for action

A woman holds a sign at the #whatabouther rally in support for the women being held at Riker's Island. Photo: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

The crisis at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex has spiraled out of control during the coronavirus pandemic, and doesn't look like it will improve anytime soon.

Why it matters: The infamous complex was already dogged by years of neglect and dysfunction when the pandemic hit. COVID has led to several inmate deaths, even worse staffing shortages, deprivation of food and medical care and failures in guard accountability.

18 hours ago - Health

Italy to mandate COVID health pass for all workers

Italian minister of public administration Renato Brunetta. Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

The Italian government mandated on Thursday that all workers must show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test or recent recovery from infection, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Thursday's announcement is one of the strictest pandemic measures in the world and makes Italy the first country in Europe to introduce such a sweeping mandate, per Reuters.