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Report: White House warned local leaders to take aggressive action to prevent virus spread

Report: White House warned local leaders to take aggressive action to prevent virus spread
Posted at 2:07 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 14:11:41-04

The White House privately warned the mayors of 11 major U.S. cities on Wednesday that they need to take "aggressive" steps to control COVID-19 outbreaks, the Center for Public Integrity reports.

The warning came from Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. In the call, which the Center for Public Integrity included "hundreds of emergency managers and other state and local leaders," she identified 11 cities that are seeing an increase in the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests they've taken in recent weeks. Those cities were Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

“When you first see that increase in test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts,” she said in a recording obtained by Public Integrity. “I know it may look small and you may say, ‘That only went from 5 to 5-and-a-half [percent], and we’re gonna wait and see what happens.’ If you wait another three or four or even five days, you’ll start to see a dramatic increase in cases.”

The Center for Public Integrity also published a seven-minute segment of the conference call.

It's unclear who provided the Center for Public Integrity with the recording, which was closed to the press. The outlet also reported that it's unclear which local governments were on the call, which was hosted by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Officials in Cleveland told the outlet that they were not on the call.

Birx's call came the day after President Donald Trump resumed his daily coronavirus briefings. During those briefings, Trump encouraged the nations to wear a mask when in public — a significant shift after he refused to do so in public appearances earlier this year. But Trump also seemed to downplay the severity of the virus by claiming that mortality is falling, despite figures from Johns Hopkins that show mortality increasing.

Global Coronavirus Tracker:

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Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.