(TNS) - Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in a private phone call on Wednesday called on Cleveland, Columbus and 9 other U.S. cities to take “aggressive” action to curb the spread of coronavirus, according to a report from The Center for Public Integrity.
The warning was in response to an increasing percentage of tests that are coming back positive for COVID-19 in Ohio’s two largest cities, along with Baltimore, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, the report says.
The positivity rate for tests conducted at the Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and University Hospitals has climbed dramatically in recent weeks, from 2.7% the week of June 10 to 9% last week, according to data from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
The call was reportedly between Birx and hundreds of emergency managers, along with other state and local leaders, though a Cleveland spokeswoman told The Center for Public Integrity that the city did not participate in the call.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health tells cleveland.com that its office was not part of the call, and only learned of the warning Wednesday night through media reports.
The county’s Office of Emergency Management was not party to the call either, according to a county spokeswoman.
The center’s report states that it is unclear who heard the warning. The call — a recording of which was obtained by the center — was hosted by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and closed to the press.
Dr. Birx told phone call participants that Cleveland and the 10 other cities must act quickly to reduce the spread of COVID-19. She recommended that contact tracing be conducted in places where the test positivity rate is climbing.
Birx warned that the outbreak in the Sunbelt — in cities such as Phoenix and San Antonio — was beginning to shift north, the report states.
“When you first see that increase in test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts,” Birx said in the recording. “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.”
Citing the increases, Birx told leaders it is “really critical that everybody is following this and making sure they’re being aggressive about mitigation efforts.”
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