The "Worst Is Yet to Come" With COVID, Outgoing CDC Head Warns

Robert R. Redfield reflects back on the coronavirus pandemic and what happens next.

As of Jan. 20, the U.S. has officially shifted from President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden, and with that, many of the federal officials in charge of addressing the COVID pandemic have also changed. Robert R. Redfield, MD, who helmed many aspects of the COVID response during Trump's presidency, was replaced by Rochelle Walensky, MD, as the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On his way out, Redfield shared his thoughts on the future of the pandemic, with words of warning about what's to come. Read on for the former CDC director's predictions, and for more from Walensky, The New CDC Director Just Issued This Very Dark COVID Warning.

The former CDC director says the pandemic is going to get worse than ever before.

Senior woman in self quarantine to avoid contagion of infection by virus covid-19, stays home looking outdoors from the window
lucigerma / iStock

"It's hard to leave at a time when the pandemic still hasn't reached its peak and the worst days haven't come," Redfield told The New York Times. "It would have been more rewarding to leave when the pandemic is under control, but I do feel proud."

Later in the interview, Redfield once again echoed his warning that we haven't seen the darkest days of this virus. "I still believe the worst is yet to come," he repeated. "The reality is we are in for some very difficult time." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The U.K. strain could contribute to the worsening of the pandemic.

people wearing protective masks against COVID in city streets in winter
Yury Karamanenko / iStock

A report released by the CDC on Jan. 15 said the U.K. strain "has the potential to increase the U.S. pandemic trajectory in the coming months." According to their model, the more transmissible strain is expected to travel so swiftly that by March, it will become the dominant variant in the U.S.

In light of this, the CDC is warning people that they need to adhere to COVID precautions such as distancing, masking, hand hygiene, and avoiding indoor gatherings immediately. "These measures will be more effective if they are instituted sooner rather than later to slow the initial spread" of the U.K. strain, according to the CDC. And for more on the future of the pandemic, The Moderna CEO Just Made This Scary Prediction About COVID.

According to Redfield, the hardest part of responding to COVID was the lack of investment.

A female doctor takes a caucasian woman's temperature while both wear face masks.

In looking back on his work heading the CDC, Redfield said the most difficult part of the job was trying to orchestrate an effective response to the pandemic in a country "where there's been probably more than 30 years of underinvestment in public health across this nation." And if you're worried about staying healthy, The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

The former CDC head was disappointed by the way public health measures were reinforced.

Woman wearing a mask
Shutterstock/Drazen Zigic

A key to curtailing COVID is adhering to the various precautions that can help slow the spread of the virus until the majority of people are vaccinated. Redfield said his "greatest disappointment was the lack of consistency of public health messaging and the inconsistency of civic leaders to reinforce the public health message." Within the U.S., COVID restrictions—like lockdowns and mask mandates—have varied significantly from state to state.

"The fact that we didn't have an alignment meant we had the private sector and public sector all wrestling with how to put it together independently," Redfield said. And for more on coronavirus mitigation measures, These 2 COVID Precautions May Not Be Necessary After All, New Study Finds.

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