BOSTON -- A top federal health official on Tuesday urged Massachusetts and other states to keep COVID-19 restrictions in place amid concerns about a fourth wave of infections.
During a visit to a mass vaccination site in Boston, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said health officials are concerned about a rise in COVID-19 cases nationally as many state governments take steps to reopen their economies.
Walensky, a Peabody native and former chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, raised eyebrows earlier this week by saying she has a feeling of "impending doom" about another surge.
On Tuesday, she reiterated her concerns and urged people to take precautions and get vaccinated.
"While we have so much hope on the horizon, we're asking everyone to hang on just a little bit longer," Walensky said after touring the vaccination center at the Hynes Convention Center, which is expanding its capacity this week with federal help.
Nationally, new COVID-19 cases have risen by 10% in the past week to roughly 60,000 per day, the CDC says. Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising.
President Joe Biden is also raising alarms about another surge, urging governors to reinstate mask mandates and other restrictions that some states have eased.
"Now is not the time to celebrate," Biden said in remarks on Monday. "It is time to do what we do best as a country -- our duty, our jobs. Take care of one another, and fight this to the finish."
While Massachusetts has eased some of restrictions, a statewide mask mandate, limits on public and private gatherings and other precautions remain in place.
An emergency declaration Gov. Charlie Baker signed more than year ago is still in effect.
Baker, who accompanied Walensky during her visit, echoed her concerns about the need to continue with masks, social distancing and other precautions. He suggested the state's remaining restrictions won't be lifted anytime soon.
"We've seen what happens when people let down their guard," he said.
Massachusetts is currently in the final phase of its reopening plan, with capacity limits eased for most businesses. Public venues such as ballparks are allowed to host limited numbers of visitors.
Baker has also eased travel restrictions.
On Monday, the state's seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 stood at 2.37%, a slight increase from earlier this month, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The seven-day average of new cases was 1,637, up from 1,347 two weeks ago, health officials said.
Hospitalizations have also ticked up slightly from a few weeks ago.
State health officials reported another 1,464 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths on Monday. To date, there have been nearly 600,000 cases and 16,790 deaths in Massachusetts.
Despite setbacks with its rollout, Massachusetts is getting more vaccine shots into arms and is now one of the top states for administering doses of the drugs.
More than 3.4 million doses have been administered as of Monday, with nearly 1.3 million people fully vaccinated. The state has about 6.9 million residents.
The Hynes Center vaccination site is expanding from 1,000 to 7,000 appointments a day with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"People have done a tremendous job of battling back against this virus," Baker said Tuesday. "But we all need to dig in a little deeper, for a little longer."
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org