WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - Biden administration officials pleaded with Americans on Monday to continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amid an increase in cases across the country.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with emotion in her voice, urged public officials and others to spread the word about the seriousness of the situation in an effort to prevent a fourth surge.
She said the United States surpassed 30 million cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and that the seven-day average of new cases was slightly less than 60,000 cases per day - a 10 percent increase compared with the prior seven-day period. Hospitalizations also increased and deaths started to rise.
"I'm going to lose the script and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," Walensky told a briefing with reporters. "Right now I'm scared."
Officials cited states opening up their economies and loosening COVID restrictions prematurely, along with an increase in travel, as reasons for the uptick.
Walensky said the trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looked similar to countries in Europe, such as Germany, Italy and France, which have experienced a spike in cases.
"We do not have the luxury of inaction. For ... the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge."
President Joe Biden has set a goal of getting 200 million vaccine shots in people's arms in his first 100 days in office, and vaccinations are increasing across the country.
But some parts of the United States have started to do away with mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions, while Americans have gotten out to travel more for spring break and leisure, as fatigue over a year of a pandemic-changed way of life takes hold.
"Hang in there," said infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. "It will be a race between the vaccine and what's going on with the dynamics of the outbreak, and we can win this by just hanging in there a bit longer."
The officials discouraged nonessential travel and encouraged measures such as mask-wearing and keeping socially distant to stop the spread of the virus and its dangerous variants.
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