‘It’s not a time to relax’: Biden warns COVID-19 cases could surge due to new mutations

Joe Biden warned on Friday that the United States could be faced with another surge in COVID-19 cases, as the virus continues to mutate and spread.

Speaking on a visit to Texas to both survey storm relief efforts and see vaccination progress, the president said he was pleased with the efforts to reach his vaccination targets.

Biden aims to administer 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days.

Joe Biden was in Texas on Friday to inspect storm relief efforts and vaccination centers

On Thursday he commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office, and celebrated being ‘weeks ahead of schedule’.

That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 U.S. deaths blamed on the disease.

On Friday, he warned that the country was not yet in the clear – even as the FDA approved another vaccine and 2.2 million people were vaccinated; a new record.

‘It’s true that while COVID-19 vaccinations are up, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are down,’ Biden said.

‘But I need to be honest with you.

‘Cases and hospitalizations could go back up as new variants emerge, and it’s not the time to relax. We have to keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced and for God’s sake, keep wearing a mask.

‘It’s not a political statement. It’s the patriotic thing to do.’

Biden also said he was hoping the a Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be approved soon, to add yet more capacity to the system.  

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel unanimously backed the Johnson &Johnson single-dose vaccine on Friday.  

 ‘We’ve all seen the news about Johnson & Johnson vaccine today just the third safe, effective vaccine and it’s out,’ Biden said.

‘They’ve approved it today. We’re going to use every conceivable way to expand manufacturing of the vaccine, the third vaccine, make even more rapid progress shots in people’s arms.’

Government health experts have been lauding the vaccine for its ability to stave off serious illness and hospital visits caused by COVID-19 – plus its single-shot potency and ease of transport.

Joe Biden and his wife Jill are pictured en route to Texas on Friday

Joe Biden and his wife Jill are pictured en route to Texas on Friday

Biden is pictured speaking to a volunteer at a food bank in Houston on Friday

Biden is pictured speaking to a volunteer at a food bank in Houston on Friday

The United States has seen 28,486,111 cases as of Friday, and 510,458 deaths.

The number of new cases has risen steadily since Tuesday, when 69,105 were recorded.

On Wednesday it was 73,258; on Thursday 75,565.

On Friday the figure dipped slightly from the previous day, to 74,429.

The number of deaths was on a similar rollercoaster: Tuesday recorded 2,241 new deaths; Wednesday 2,447; Thursday 3,138, and Friday 2,137.

It comes as hospitalizations fell to their lowest level since November with fewer than 54,000 people getting inpatient care for COVID-19 in the U.S..

And fewer than 15,000 Americans died of coronavirus in the past week, a first for 2021.

New York is currently seeing the second highest number of cases per capita each day of any state in the US, with higher numbers only in South Carolina.

It diverged from the pack of most other states on February 11, and while declines have continued in other states, New York’s infection rates are still falling, but have plateaued.

And a new variant reported there already accounts for 12.7 percent of cases in the city, has scattered across the East Coast and carries a concerning mutation seen in the South African variant, which may evade vaccines.

California, too, has its own homegrown variant that’s become dominant already.

The US is now in a race: vaccinations versus variants.

Just shy of 14 per cent of the population has had one or more dose. But rates vary dramatically from state to state.

But even as fatalities fall and gatherings become a reality for vaccinated people, the rise of variants and an uptick in COVID-19 cases could be the warning signs of a fourth wave of infections, experts warn.

Biden on Friday met with the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and Senator John Cornyn, also a Republican.

‘There’s nothing partisan about this virus. It’s too long that we’ve allowed this virus to divide us,’ said Biden.

‘I met today with Gov. Abbott, Sen Cornyn – conservative Republicans. I’m a Democratic president.

‘We disagree on plenty of things and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s plenty of things we can work on together. One of them is represented right here today – the effort to speed up vaccinations.’

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