By Madison Rose
In a candid statement on March 29th, 2021, CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave a dire warning to the American public. More than two weeks later, her concerns about an impending COVID-19 surge are ringing true in Michigan.
“I’m going to pause here, I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said last month. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now, I’m scared. I know what it’s like as a physician to stand in that patient room gowned, gloved, masked, shielded, and to be the last person to touch someone else’s loved one because their loved one couldn’t be there. I know what it’s like when you are the physician, when you’re the healthcare provider and you’re worried that you don’t have the resources to take care of the patients in front of you. I know that feeling of nausea when you read the crisis standards of care and you wonder whether there are going to be enough ventilators to go around and who’s going to make that choice. And I know what it’s like to pull up to your hospital every day and see the extra morgue sitting outside.”
Although it may seem as if we are through the worst of the pandemic with vaccinations increasing and restrictions loosening, cases are still rising, especially in Michigan. On April 12, Michigan saw 10,669 new cases of COVID–19, a sharp increase from the 2,775 cases recorded on March 12, just one month prior. Hospitalizations are also on the rise in Michigan, rivaling numbers from last April with many hospitals operating at or near full capacity.
While many Americans are exhausted with the pandemic, Walensky reminded citizens that we must continue to practice safe COVID-19 practices.
“We are not powerless,” Walensky said. “We can change the trajectory of the pandemic, but it will take all of us recommitting to following the public health prevention strategies consistently while we work to get the American public vaccinated.”
Olivia Durkee, 19, of Caledonia said that Walensky’s message “makes me feel extremely nervous and worried for our country and the fate of humanity, to be honest, and what kind of path we are now on.”
In order to stop the spread, Americans should continue to wear a mask, social distance, sanitize, and stay home if they are feeling sick. Although college students tend to be young and healthy, students can still spread it to others who may not have as good of odds beating COVID-19 as they do.
“I don’t like it when people say that (they’re young so they won’t die) because it may not be harmful or fatal to them, but they can still pass it on to someone who is vulnerable and high risk to COVID,” said Hazen Hensley, 19, of Grand Rapids.
Public health officials, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, are urging residents to remain vigilant, “Right now, we’ve got some work to do to get our COVID metrics headed in the right direction again. Cases are continuing to rise. Our test positivity rate is hovering around 18%. 2 dozen hospitals are at 90% capacity or higher. We have a tough couple of weeks ahead of us as more infectious B.1.1.7 COVID variant continues spreading. So, to slow the spread we all have to do our part and double down on what we know works: mask, distancing, hand washing.”
Back at the CDC, Walensky has been sounding the alarm for weeks.
“We have come such a long way,” she said. “Three historic scientific breakthrough vaccines and we are rolling them out so very fast. So, I’m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC director and not only as your CDC director but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter to ask you to please just hold on a little while longer.”