White House Health Experts Warn U.S. Cities of ‘Trouble Ahead’

White House health experts warned of a slow rise in the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus in U.S. cities such as Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, and urged local leaders to remain vigilant to avoid a surge, Reuters reported.

“This is a predictor of trouble ahead,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Thursday.

The U.S. death toll is now over 158,000 – the most in the world – with 4.8 million known cases. On average, 1,000 people are dying each day nationwide from COVID-19. 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Thursday became the latest senior elected U.S. official to test positive. He said he was tested as part of a safety protocol to greet President Donald Trump as he arrives in Cleveland to visit a factory.

Fauci was speaking after the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, identified new areas of concern for infections in a telephone call with state and local officials on Wednesday.

Baltimore and Atlanta remain at a “very high level,” as well as Kansas City, Portland, Omaha and the Central Valley in California, Birx said on the call, a recording of which was obtained by the journalism nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.

White House data shows small increases in the percentage of positive COVID-10 tests in Chicago, Boston, Detroit and Washington. Those places need to “get on top of it,” Birx said.

Even in cities and states where most people are doing things right, Fauci said, those who do not wear masks or follow social distancing guidelines can keep the virus smoldering.

“Unless everybody pulls together … we’re going to continue to see these kind of increases that Dr. Birx was talking about in several of those cities,” Fauci said, noting that such increases are often followed by rising hospitalizations and deaths.

The epicenter of the U.S. outbreak initially focused on the highly populated area around New York City, but has since spread to diverse communities from coast to coast, driven in part by summer vacation travel.

Birx has been traveling around the country talking to local and state officials in recent weeks, sending regular warnings not to relax until the virus is under control.

Her message has often been in contrast to that of Trump, who on Wednesday said the virus “will go away like things go away.”

Trump also said children are “almost immune” from COVID-19, prompting Facebook Inc on Wednesday to take down his post containing a Fox News video clip in which he made the statement. Facebook said the post violated its rules against sharing misinformation about the virus.

Trump has urged state and local authorities in charge of public schools to re-open on time for in-person learning as part of his efforts to get Americans back to work and spending again.

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