As the nation reels from skyrocketing COVID-19 infection numbers, federal health officials promise to be more clear about thorny issues like the recent changes in quarantine guidance, the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday.
The agency came under criticism for how it handled its change in recommendations last month, when it shortened the quarantine time to five days from 10 for people who test positive for COVID-19 and don’t show symptoms.
“This is hard. We have ever-evolving science with an ever-evolving variant,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky told “Fox News Sunday.”
“I’m here to explain it to the American people and I am committed to continuing to do so and continuing to improve,” she said.
Walensky was reiterating a message she voiced on Friday during the CDC’s first COVID-19 telebriefing in months, and she promised more public updates to come.
She took exception with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s assertion last week that “100,000″ children were hospitalized for COVID-19. The real number is fewer than 3,500, Walensky said.
Children are being hospitalized at much lower rates than are other age groups and face less risk of dying of the virus, she said.
“Comparatively, the risk of death is small, but of course children aren’t supposed to die,” she said. “So if we have a child who is sick with COVID-19 … we want to protect them, of course.”
Across the country, COVID-19 cases continued to spike through the weekend.
The country is now averaging more than 500,000 new cases per day, the highest level ever. The daily rate will likely reach 1 million before peaking sometime in the coming weeks, chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday.
Nearly 80,000 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. There were 138 COVID-19 fatalities throughout the state, bringing the death toll to 61,859.
Like officials nationwide trying new efforts to fight the surge, Hochul announced last week that health care workers soon will be required to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.
“We have the tools to bring down the numbers and we need everyone to do their part,” she said in a statement. “Please get your second dose and booster if eligible, get your children vaccinated if you haven’t already.”
New York Mayor Eric Adams said on Sunday that he was considering a vaccine mandate for students in the fall.
He told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he was meeting with health care professionals to determine if such an option is warranted.
“In this country, we do vaccinate for smallpox, measles and other things,” the new mayor said. “And so, we need to engage in a real conversation of how to educate, use the time before the fall to educate our parents to show the importance of it.
“We’re going to sit down and determine if we’re going to roll that out, as well,” he added.
Last year, Los Angeles officials said students would have to be vaccinated by Jan. 10, but the mammoth scale of the effort forced them to postpone the mandate to the fall.
In New York City, a record number of students have missed school as omicron takes its toll.
Citywide attendance, which averaged nearly 90 percent for much of autumn, dropped to 69 percent from Dec. 20-23 and Jan. 3-7.
Adams was noncommittal about whether the school year should be extended to make up for learning loss during the pandemic.
“We’re going to sit down with my new chancellor and study how do we start doing the catch-up,” he said on CBS’ ”Face the Nation.”
On the 2020 campaign trail, Adams had called for a “a full-year school year.”
Meanwhile, local leaders are calling for more federal money to fund health care sites.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently delivered more than $1 billion to reimburse city hospitals and nursing homes for COVID-related costs, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
But none of the funding covers expenses incurred since the omicron variant caused the huge spike in cases through the holidays, the New York Democrat said.
“We are saying to FEMA: no more delays,” Schumer said at a news conference outside Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. “We need the money now.”
So far, local hospitals appear to be coping with the surge in cases caused by omicron, believed to be less severe than previous variants of the virus.
But “there is no set of public servants who are more deserving than our health care heroes,” Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-Bronx, said at the news conference.