- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday the coronavirus battle is reaching a “critical phase,” as reported infections rise in three-quarters of the country.

Jay Butler, the agency’s deputy director for infectious diseases, said the nation is averaging 60,000 cases and 700 deaths per day — a “distressing trend” after a decline in late August.

The increase is particularly acute in the Midwest, where people are moving indoors as temperatures cool. Officials said mask-wearing his more important than ever.

“The pandemic is not over,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said.

Their message contrast sharply with the one President Trump shares on the campaign trail.

Speaking at rallies, Mr. Trump says the nation is set to emerge from the pandemic and see an economic boom, while saying young and healthy people should feel free to get on with their lives.

Asked whether the country is “rounding the corner,” Health Secretary Alex Azar said the administration’s advice remains the same: people should wash their hands, maintain physical distance and wear a mask when they’re unable to keep away from others.

Dr. Redfield said Americans shouldn’t give up hope, pointing to the likelihood that one or more vaccines will be approved by the end of the year.

“I know it’s been a difficult year for Americans but we are going to come through on the other side,” Dr. Redfield said.

Mr. Azar said vaccines and therapeutics are being manufactured even before they are approved by federal regulators so they’ll be ready to go, and that Washington is working with states to make sure the distribution of the vaccine runs smoothly.

The secretary expects to have enough vaccine to immunize vulnerable persons by the end of the year, seniors at the start of the new year and the general public by April.

“We see concerning trends in many parts of the country,” Mr. Azar said. “There is hope on the way in the form of safe and effective vaccines in a matter of weeks or months.”

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