The CDC Director Is No Longer Asking This of Americans—He's Demanding It
If not, the country could experience the "worst fall" in history because of COVID, he says.
While some hoped that the coronavirus pandemic would wither away by the time summer rolled around, the virus maintained its stride throughout July. And now in August, many are looking toward what the fall will bring, hoping for better. But Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is warning that this could be the "worst fall" the country has ever seen. So instead of asking, he's now demanding these four things of Americans: wearing face masks, staying 6 feet away from others, washing hands often with soap and warm water, and being smart about crowd gatherings.
"I'm not asking some of America to do it," Redfield told John Whyte, MD, WebMD's chief medical officer, during an Aug. 12 interview. "We all gotta do it."
According to Redfield, America is in for the "worst fall" it has "ever seen" as a result of the combined health implications from the continued coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming flu season. And the only thing that can change the trajectory of the pandemic by Thanksgiving is how Americans respond, he says.
"It's dependent on how the American people choose to respond," Redfield said. "It's really the worst of times or the best of times, depending on the American public. I'm optimistic."
Recent statistics may already be backing up Redfield's optimism. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide flu activity is at "lower levels than expected for this time of the year." The reason? Increased emphasis on hand hygiene and social distancing due to the coronavirus has already helped play a part in reducing transmission of the flu. And if these precautions are adopted more heavily, as Redfield recommends, it could also help reduce flu and coronavirus transmission in the fall—putting less strain on medical resources.
Currently, the United States has more than 5 million coronavirus cases, according to the CDC. For the last week, the country has experienced between 39,000 to 62,000 new cases daily. However, without better control of the virus, Matthew Harrison, Morgan Stanley's biotechnology analyst, recently predicted that the new cases in the country could reach 150,000 per day in the fall.
To help prepare for a potentially catastrophic season, Redfield is also demanding one more thing from Americans. He wants everyone to get a flu vaccine. According to Redfield, only about 47 percent of Americans got a flu vaccine last year, but the CDC needs at least 65 percent of Americans to do so this year. The organization has even purchased millions of extra doses of the flu vaccine to distribute this fall, he says.
"Please don't leave this important accomplishment of American medicine on the shelf," he said. "This is a year that I'm asking people to really think deep down about getting the flu vaccine." And for more CDC tips to help mitigate the spread of COVID, check out these 50 Essential COVID Safety Tips the CDC Wants You to Know.