President Joe Biden and his wife Jill both sported masks during a holiday visit to a Washington, DC children’s hospital on Friday amid a global surge of COVID-19 cases.
Biden accompanied the First Lady as she read “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats aloud to patients at Children’s National Hospital.
Sitting in front of an ornately decorated Christmas tree, Jill Biden read from behind a purple mask to match her dress while the president wore a black face covering.
While Biden said just yesterday that “COVID-19 no longer controls our lives,” it remains a strict policy at Children’s National Hospital that all visitors wear masks in any of its facilities at all times, except when eating, “to protect our patients,” according to the hospital’s website.
“Things are getting better. COVID no longer controls our lives. Our kids are back in school. People are back to work,” the president said in a holiday-themed speech from the White House.
However COVID-19 cases are surging once again.
In China, as many as 248 million people — almost 18% of its population — contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, according to minutes from an internal meeting of the National Health Commission obtained by Bloomberg News.
In just a single day, nearly 37 million people may have caught the virus, according to the report.
In the US, the increase in cases is far less extreme but is trending upwards as millions of Americans travel to visit family and friends for the holidays.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US is averaging over 487,000 cases per week, which is up from just a few weeks ago in October when just over 260,000 a week cases were reported.
The current number is just a fraction of the peak in Jan. 2022 when 5.6 million cases per week were reported, according to the CDC.
In New York City, just under 27,000 COVID-19 cases per week were most recently reported. Meanwhile, in the rest of the state excluding the five boroughs, under 20,000 cases a week were reported, according to CDC data.
New York City is also experiencing a sharp spike in influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus cases, with Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan saying earlier this month “respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul urged New Yorkers to stay up to date on their vaccinations to keep the burden off of hospitals after the holidays.
“As New Yorkers gather to celebrate this holiday season, I urge everyone to remain vigilant and take all available precautions to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe and healthy,” Hochul said in a coronavirus update on Thursday. “Stay up to date on vaccine doses, and test before gatherings or travel. If you test positive, talk to your doctor about potential treatment options.”