Coronavirus latest: CDC head says some US health systems in ‘dire straits’


The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that healthcare in some parts of the country are in “dire straits” as the country battles high Covid-19 death rates and its booster campaign gets off to a confused start.

Speaking to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Rochelle Walensky said that some parts of the country with lower rates of vaccination against Covid were having to resort to “crisis standards of care”.

“In some states, yes, they are running out of beds,” she said. “That means that we are talking about who is going to get a ventilator, who is getting an intensive care bed?”

The US has vaccinated more than 54 per cent of its population by Saturday, according to the FT’s vaccine tracker, but as many as 70m people remain unvaccinated, Walensky said.

Daily deaths in the country topped 2,000 on Saturday and are trending upwards, according to CDC data, with the country struggling to contain the highly infectious Delta variant among its unvaccinated population.

Walensky also explained why she overruled a CDC panel on Friday by deciding to approve the rollout of a booster dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab to those employed in jobs that give them a higher risk of contracting the virus.

“There’s extraordinary data to demonstrate the safety of these vaccines and in fact that they work. So if you’re in a high-risk position I would absolutely recommend you get the boost.”

President Joe Biden had originally promised to roll out a booster dose to all those aged over 18, but last week US regulators, including the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, voted to limit the rollout to certain eligible groups.