Task force coordinator Dr Deborah Birx said there were encouraging signs in the south, a region hard hit by a growing pandemic in recent weeks, but highlighted new areas of concern during a private phone call with state and local officials on Wednesday, according to a recording of the call obtained by the nonprofit Journalism Center for Public Integrity.
“We are concerned that Baltimore and Atlanta remain at a very high level,” Birx said on the call. “Kansas City, Portland, Omaha, of course what we talked about in the Central Valley (California). ”
“We are seeing a slow increase in the positivity of tests in cases in places like Chicago, Boston and Detroit and DC,” she said, adding that the virus has entered a new phase.
“This outbreak is different from the outbreak of March and April in that it occurs in both rural and urban areas,” Birx said.
During Wednesday’s call, she said last week’s concern centered on the increase in numbers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Virginia.
“While we are seeing improvements in some of the red states and some states have actually gone from a red category – it was over 10% positive on the test – to less than 10%, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia have passed. return to the status of the yellow states, ”Birx said. “Their work must continue to intensify to continue to reduce the number of cases. “
Today, Birx said Nebraska and California have moved to the red category, with more than 10% of tests coming back positive. She said Los Angeles may have seen improvements, but there was significant movement of the virus into California’s central valley.
Despite Birx’s quick reference to positive test rates of 10%, it’s not entirely clear which states the task force designated as “red,” “yellow,” or “green,” how often that label may change or what may be the designation criteria. because the panel did not publish the information on the classification system.
In another private call last month, Birx warned of a worrying increase in coronavirus cases in 12 cities, including Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore.
Birx said on Wednesday she had crisscrossed the country for the past five or six weeks, covering about 6,000 miles, and had seen a few trends for herself.
“We’ve really seen America move and people go on vacation,” she said. She urged those on the call to draw attention in their state to the dangers of exposing older family members to returning vacationers due to wide asymptomatic spread.
Birx again accused the “super spreader” events of driving the virus and said mitigation efforts should continue.
Birx ended the call on a hopeful note.
“We are monitoring every county and city in the United States very carefully and providing the best advice we have based on models… showing that these mitigation efforts are working,” she said.