CDC director Rochelle Walensky has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a statement issued by the agency on Saturday.
Walensky is “up to date with her vaccines,” the statement said, and is experiencing mild symptoms. She is isolating at home, per her agency’s guidance, which recommends quarantining for at least five days after testing positive.
The director’s case comes amid concerns among Biden administration officials and public health experts alike about a tough Covid-19 winter ahead, with hospitalizations already on the rise in Europe. The U.S. has not yet seen a significant uptick in cases, hospitalizations or deaths yet, according to CDC data, though about 360 people continue to die each day from the virus.
Getting a real-time snapshot of Covid-19 transmission in the country will be harder than in previous winters. Earlier this month, the agency moved to weekly reporting for Covid-19 case and death data. The majority of states have stopped reporting test positivity or have scaled down their testing reports.
The bivalent Covid-19 booster vaccine that the Biden administration is promoting to Americans is designed to offer protection against the original Covid-19 strain and the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which now comprise the vast majority of cases in the country.
Of particular concern to Biden officials are BQ1 and BQ1.1, both subvariants of BA.5, which early studies indicate may evade some existing treatments for immunocompromised individuals.
The new booster, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, is still being tested in human trials, and though early data look promising, a full picture of how it protects Americans against infection, transmission and hospitalization of the newer subvariants is not yet available.