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Mixed message: Biden touts progress on COVID-19 while CDC chief warns of 'impending doom'

"I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom..."

Updated: March 30, 2021 - 11:21am

In his press conference on Thursday, President Joe Biden proclaimed great progress battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

"On December 8th, I indicated that I hoped to get 100 million shots in people's arms in my first 100 days. We met that goal last week by day 58 – 42 days ahead of schedule," Biden said at the White House. 

"Now, today, I'm setting a second goal, and that is: We will, by my 100th day in office, have administered 200 million shots in people's arms. That's right: 200 million shots in 100 days."

Biden said his administration is going to target "the highest-risk communities – as a consequence of the virus – by investing an addition $10 billion in being able to reach them." 

He said, "thanks to the enormous amount of work done by our administration, educators, parents, local, state education officials and leaders – a recent Department of Education Department survey shows that nearly half of the K-through-8 schools are open now full time, five days a week, for in-person learning." 

"Not yet a majority, but we're really close. And I believe, in the 35 days left to go, we'll meet that goal as well," Biden said.

On Monday, Biden said: "The progress we have made on vaccinating this country is a great American story."

But also on Monday, his director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) painted a different – and far more bleak – picture.

"Hospitalizations are up and deaths are slowly starting to rise with about 1,000 deaths per day," Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing. 

"Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth and I have to hope and trust you will listen," Walensky continued. "I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now, I'm scared… please hold on a little while longer."

Walensky added that the "trajectory of the pandemic in the U.S. looks similar to other European states," including Germany and France, where she said there is a "worrying spike in cases." 

"We can change the trajectory if we keep doing the right things. We don't have the luxury of inaction, [we must] work now to prevent a fourth surge," she said. 

She also warned of another spike like the one that occurred in late summer and again after Thanksgiving. 

"I worry we will see the surges we saw over the summer and winter again," she said, adding that she will warn governors of various states against "opening up too quickly."

Biden changed his tune on Monday, warning governors they should not reopen their economies yet and condemning “reckless behavior” like doing away with mask mandates.

"Our work is far from over. The war against Covid-19 is far from won," Biden said at a White House press briefing. "This is deadly serious."

"We're giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains," Biden said. "And as much as we're doing America, it's time to do even more," Biden said. "We're making progress on vaccinations, but cases are rising and the virus is spreading in too many places still."