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CDC Chief: “Now is not the time to relax restrictions”

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Michael P. Norton

A day after Gov. Charlie Baker announced he’s loosening economic reopening rules due to improving COVID-19 data here, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday that “now is not the time to relax restrictions.”

During a press briefing by the White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials, Walensky said COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, and deaths all remain “very high,” noting that the recent progress comes on the heels of “the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic.”

In addition, she said the latest data “suggests that these declines may be stalling, potentially leveling off at, still, a very high number.”

The nation may also be starting to see the beginning effects of the spread of more transmissible COVID variants like B117, which accounts for about 10 percent of cases nationwide, up from 1 to 4 percent a few weeks ago, she said. And she cited new research this week about additional emerging variants in New York (B1526) and California (B1427) that she said also appear to spread more easily and are contributing to a large fraction of infections in those areas.

“We are watching these concerning data very closely to see where they will go over the next few days,” she said. “But it’s important to remember where we are in the pandemic. Things are tenuous. Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”

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