New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – The nation’s top public health official issued a dire warning Monday of a coming spring surge of the coronavirus pandemic that could inflict a new round of death and hardship even as the vaccination drive surpasses all expectations.

Her voice trembling, Dr Rochelle Walensky of the Centers for Disease Control bluntly admitted she is gripped by a “feeling of impending doom” over a looming so-called fourth wave of the pandemic driven by more-contagious variants of COVID-19.

“Right now, I’m scared,” Walensky said during a briefing on the pandemic. “I’m asking you to hold on just a little bit longer … so all those people will still be here when the pandemic ends.”

Walensky conceded she was ditching a planned script to sound a grim alarm about the pandemic. She said if Americans do not change course immediately and return to stricter public health precautions, the nation is facing a huge spike of illnesses even as the end of the pandemic appears to be in sight.

“We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the good of our country we must work together to prevent a fourth surge,” Walensky said.

The leading pandemic doctor said the U.S. is in virtually the same situation that western European countries were in a few weeks ago as the new variants started taking hold there.

They are now grappling with are punishing new increases in caseloads that are once again threatening to overrun their hospitals and forcing new lockdown measures to limit the spread.

“Those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases,” Walensky said.

People in a mostly maskless crowd walk down Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida's famed South Beach, Monday, March 22.
People in a mostly maskless crowd walk down Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida’s famed South Beach, Monday, March 22. (Wilfredo Lee)

The impending surge comes even as the U.S. is making rapid progress vaccinating people against COVID-19. Millions a day are receiving the lifesaving shots, especially elderly people and those with comorbidities including diabetes.

Still, Walensky made an impassioned plea to Americans to double down on efforts to keep a lid on the new strains, calling on officials to resist pressure to ease restrictions.

“I’m speaking to you as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter,” Walensky said. “We are so close, but we are not there yet.”

  • Top Feature Photo: Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Susan Walsh)