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WH Coronavirus Coordinator Encouraged By Decline In New Cases In Most Of U.S.

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listens during a meeting at the White House earlier this month.
Alex Brandon
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listens during a meeting at the White House earlier this month.

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said on Tuesday that she is encouraged by the latest data showing declines in new cases of the virus, hospitalizations and deaths across all but a few areas of the United States.

Birx told a group of reporters at the White House that clinical, laboratory data and surveillance data from across the country shows that new hospitalizations have dropped by 50% in the last 30 days, and deaths continue to decrease week over week. "All states have dropped under 20% test positive, and New York has gone from over 45% test positive just 30 days ago, to under 10% test positive," Birx said. "These types of declines are being seen across the board except in a few areas."

Three exceptions, where indicators have plateaued rather than declined: the Washington D.C., metro area, Chicago, and Los Angeles. "We're dissecting each one of these plateaus and providing daily updates to the task force on what's community spread and what's outbreak in terms of new cases. We study these three metros that are closed and have been closed to understand where precisely the new cases are coming from and how to prevent new infections," Birx said.

Otherwise, Birx said major metropolitan areas are starting to improve significantly. Testing has expanded, including among populations most vulnerable to the virus, to find asymptomatic cases early and expand contact tracing and isolating new cases, she said. Outbreaks at nursing homes, meat packing plants and prisons are being stopped "on a regular and ongoing basis" she said.

"A lot of states have been doing exactly what we asked them to: find, test, contact trace, and contain. They are finding the first case, finding the other 50 cases — or finding the other 100 cases that are often asymptomatic by testing everyone in the plant, or nursing home, or prison — and stopping community spread. And that's been very reassuring to me," Birx said. She added that the task force is focused on finding where the virus starts in a community before it spreads.

Birx said she has been talking to the military about how they've created teams and sub-teams, and wants to work with manufacturers and other groups to adopt such measures in the workplace. "When you can align work shifts and physically who you regularly interact with in the factory, teams of people always working together, it's an easier way to test these specific groups and stop outbreaks," she said.

The U.S. has had more than 1.5 million confirmed cases so far and more than 90,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins — by far the highest counts in the world.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez
Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.