CDC Director Says Temporary Shut Down Would Do More To Remedy MI COVID Surge Than More Vaccines

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronaviru... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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April 12, 2021 6:15 p.m.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Monday urged Michigan to “close things” down amid an alarming spike in rates of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the state rather than relying on vaccinations to resolve the crisis.

During a White House COVID-19 response team briefing on Monday, Walensky explained that immunizations could take two to six weeks to change the course of coronavirus infections in the state.

“When you have an acute situation, an extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily to give vaccines — in fact we know the vaccine will have a delayed response,” Walensky said.

Walensky said that the answer to tamping down surges of COVID-19 cases is to “close things down” and adhere to mitigation measures that were first implemented last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

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“The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer … to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent that we have available, to contact trace,” Walensky said.

The CDC director added that efforts to “vaccinate our way out” of Michigan’s COVID-19 surge would end up being disappointing because it takes a while for the efficacy of vaccines to kick in and help curb the spread of the virus.

White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt echoed Walensky’s sentiment during a conference call with reporters on Monday, according to Reuters.

Slavitt said the White House would not shift its approach on vaccine distribution, but said that the Biden administration would work to ensure that states like Michigan were maximizing orders of the vaccine that are available to the state.

After pointing out that coronavirus variants also exist in states outside of Michigan, Slavitt said that shifting gears on vaccine distribution plans would just become a fruitless “Whack-a-Mole” approach that goes against the advice of health experts.

“So our ability to vaccinate people quickly … (in) each of those state rather than taking vaccines and shifting it to playing Whack-a-Mole isn’t the strategy that public health leaders and scientists … have laid out,” Slavitt said.

In the past week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D) revved up their calls for the Biden administration to distribute more doses to hard-hit states like theirs, even after White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients shut down the idea last week.

Both Whitmer and Gilchrist didn’t agree with the White House’s plans to stick with a vaccine-allocation strategy that largely distributes doses to states and territories based on their population. On Sunday, they pushed for a “hotspot strategy” to allocate increased supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to hard-hit areas like Michigan as the country hits record-setting levels of vaccinations.

Watch Walensky’s remarks below:

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