Americans face ‘rough’ winter from COVID-19 surge, warns CDC chief

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The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday the COVID-19 pandemic, still raging with unprecedented fury nationwide, will pose the country’s grimmest health crisis yet over the next few months, before vaccines become widely available.

CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield urged stricter adherence to safety precautions such as wearing face coverings, social distancing and good hand hygiene to slow the spread of a highly contagious respiratory virus now claiming well over 2,000 U.S. lives a day.

The sober message from one of the nation’s top health officers followed Thanksgiving holiday observances in which millions of Americans disregarded warnings to avoid travel and large gatherings even as COVID infections and hospitalizations surged largely unchecked, reports Reuters.

Besides the monumental loss of life, Redfield said, the country faces the prospect of a healthcare system strained to the point of collapse. The contagion has now reached every corner of the country – with 90% of all hospitals in areas designated as coronavirus “hot zones” – and continues to spread on a much steeper trajectory than any previous wave of the pandemic.

“The reality is that December, January and February are going to be rough times,” Redfield told a livestream presentation hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

President-elect Joe Biden amplified the bleak forecast during a roundtable with workers and small business owners hard hit by the devastating economic fallout of the pandemic.

“Christmas is going to be a lot harder. I don’t want to scare anybody here, but understand the facts – we’re likely to lose another 250,000 people dead between now and January. You hear me?” Biden said.

More than 270,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 to date. And the University of Washington’s influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has projected the toll could reach nearly 450,000 by March 1 without greater attention to social distancing and mask-wearing.

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