'Keep your guard up': CDC chief urges states not to lift pandemic restrictions, cites rising variant cases

State officials shouldn't lift COVID-19 restrictions as variant cases in the U.S. increase, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a Feb. 8 White House news briefing.

Dr. Walensky was asked about states ending mask mandates, along with some social distancing requirements for bars and restaurants.

"I would discourage any such activity," Dr. Walensky said. "We have yet to control this pandemic. We still have this emerging threat of variants, and I would just simply discourage any of those activities. We really need to keep all of the mitigation measures at play here if we're really going to get control of this pandemic."

The U.K. coronavirus variant has been spreading rapidly in the U.S., according to early research published Feb. 6 by preprint server medRxiv. Prevalence of variant B.1.1.7 infections in the U.S. doubled every week and a half from December 2020 to January 2021, researchers found. 

The South Africa coronavirus variant B.1.351 has been identified in three states, while three cases of the P.1 variant, initially reported in Brazil, have been identified nationally, according to the CDC.

"Although hospital admissions and cases are consistently dropping, I'm asking everyone to please keep your guard up," Dr. Walensky said. "The continued proliferation of variants remains of great concern and is a threat that could reverse the recent positive trends we are seeing."


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