The White House warns against loosening COVID restrictions as states do so

The Biden government’s coronavirus task force said it disagreed with states that had begun to ease restrictions as cases began to decline from an all-time high last month, warning in a White House briefing with reporters Monday that the increased risk of most of the versions prevalent nationwide give reason to maintain these restrictions rather than weaken them.

States like New York and Massachusetts have recently supported some of the stricter restrictions in the winter months, such as banning all indoor meals. And in a more extreme case, the Iowa governor across the state revoked the mask mandate.

But it’s important to note that the U.S. has been here before, experts said, especially during the summer, when states lifted their restrictions, reopened after the closures, and brought another summit. Rochelle Walensky, director of Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser, and Andy Slavitt, coronavirus consultant, made it clear at Monday’s briefing that they are urging states not to move down this path.

“We have not yet been able to control this epidemic. There is still this emerging threat to the variants, and I would simply discourage these activities, “Walensky said of the relaxed restrictions.” We really need to keep all the mitigation measures here if we really get control. the pandemic “.

He called on all Americans to “keep the guard on” as cases and hospital admissions decline – noting that the country still sees more than 100,000 cases a day and far more hospitalizations per day than was reported during the summer peak. be.

“We are constantly monitoring this data, and although hospital admissions and cases are steadily declining, I urge everyone to please keep the guard. The continued proliferation of variants remains a major concern and a threat that could reverse recent positive trends. Said Walensky.

On February 7, 699 variant cases were confirmed in 34 states. Of these, 690 are the B-117 variant, first announced in the UK, Walensky said. It is estimated that there are already many more variant cases here, but most test centers do not perform the detailed sequencing required to find variants. Walensky said the CDC has increased its oversight of variants tenfold in the past three weeks, and plans to increase it three to fourfold more.

Walensky says it’s important to wear a mast, be 6 feet apart, and avoid travel, crowds, and poorly ventilated places. The public “should vaccinate itself when it is available to you. I admit that the epidemic has done enormous damage to all of us. But if we all work together and take these preventative steps, we can finally reverse the price,” Walensky said.

Asked what the White House is doing to put pressure on states not to relax their policies, Slavitt and Walensky have not taken concrete policy action, saying they are aware of states and are constantly communicating to try to guide their decisions with the data available. data.

“I’m just saying that I think our position on that is pretty well-founded. We attend governors ’calls at least weekly and have already contacted many governors, so I will do my best and be happy to do more to encourage states to reduce the spread of their communities, what can reduce the risk of these variants, reduce our hospital care and control you can keep this epidemic under control, ”Walensky said.

Slavitt added: they understand that pressure states reopen.

“And all I add to that is, you know, we understand the pressure from the governors.” We take the most collaborative approach possible, sharing data with them, helping them understand in our call why we are at such a critical time in the fight against the virus, and hope to continue working to persuade and persuade. partner with states and localities to continue to follow reasonable public health measures, ”he said.

Massachusetts, Iowa and New York are among the states that will ease COVID restrictions this week. In Massachusetts, businesses, including restaurants, gyms and close contact services, could operate at 40% capacity starting Monday, the WCVB reported. These companies were limited to 25% capacity.

In New York City, restaurants will be admitted to shoppers from Friday, with a 25% capacity, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed Monday. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has abolished the state mask mandate since Sunday.

ABC News ’Alexandra Svokos contributed to this report.