Biden Pushes Mask Mandate as C.D.C. Director Warns of ‘Impending Doom’

WASHINGTON — President Biden, dealing with an increase in coronavirus circumstances across the nation, known as on Monday for governors and mayors to reinstate masks mandates as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “impending doom” from a possible fourth surge of the pandemic.

The president’s feedback got here solely hours after the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, appeared to combat again tears as she pleaded with Americans to “hold on a little while longer” and proceed following public well being recommendation, like sporting masks and social distancing, to curb the virus’s unfold.

The back-to-back appeals mirrored a rising sense of urgency amongst prime White House officers and authorities scientists that the possibility to overcome the pandemic, now in its second yr, could slip by way of their grasp. Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are on the upswing, together with a troubling rise within the Northeast, even as the tempo of vaccinations is accelerating.

“Please, this is not politics — reinstate the mandate,” Mr. Biden mentioned, including, “The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.”

The president said doses were plentiful enough now that nine of 10 adults in the nation — or more — would be eligible for a shot by that date. Previously, he had called on states to broaden eligibility to all adults by May 1. He revised that promise because states, buoyed by projected increases in shipments, are opening their vaccination programs more rapidly than expected, a White House official said.

But it was Dr. Walensky’s raw display of emotion that seemed to capture the angst of the moment. Barely three months into her new job, the former Harvard Medical School professor and infectious disease specialist acknowledged she was departing from her prepared script during the White House’s regular coronavirus briefing for reporters.

She described “a feeling of nausea” she experienced last year when, caring for patients at Massachusetts General Hospital, she saw the corpses of Covid-19 victims piled up, overflowing from the morgue. She recalled how she stood — “gowned, gloved, masked, shielded” — as the last one in a hospital room before a patient died alone, without family.

“I know you all so badly want to be done,” she said. “We are just almost there, but not quite yet.”

Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.

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