White House coronavirus taskforce warns of 'unrelenting' spread

Guardian staff and agency
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

The White House coronavirus taskforce is warning of a persistent and broad spread of Covid-19 in the western half of the United States and its members urged aggressive mitigation measures.

“We are on a very difficult trajectory. We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the lead public health official on the taskforce and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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Fauci noted that coronavirus cases are rising in 47 states and patients are overwhelming hospitals across the US. As of Thursday, America has recorded nearly 9m cases of the virus and more than 228,000 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

“If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths,” Fauci said in an interview with CNBC Wednesday night.

The White House coronavirus taskforce has warned states in the middle and west of the country that aggressive mitigation measures will be necessary, according to weekly state reports obtained by CNN.

“We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the midwest, upper midwest and west. This will require aggressive mitigation to control both the silent, asymptomatic spread and symptomatic spread,” one state’s report said.

The taskforce reports said the cooler weather is a major factor in the increase as friends and families move gatherings indoors. It urged states to intensify efforts to encourage mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowds in public spaces.

On Thursday morning, Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC’s Good Morning America of rising infections: “We are not ready for this wave.”

He said that eight months into the US outbreak, things were not where they should be.

And he warned America to look at Europe, where he said infections began rising again about a month ago in places such as France but because the authorities were slow to respond, they were now having to take more drastic measures – France just ordered a national lockdown.

“This is what we want to avoid,” he said, but added: “That’s where we are heading if we do not act quickly.”

US hospitalizations are soaring, a metric not affected by the amount of testing done. Thirteen states, mainly in the midwest and west, reported a record number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients on Wednesday, according to a Reuters analysis.

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Wisconsin, a hotly contested battleground in next week’s US presidential election, is one of 36 states where coronavirus hospitalizations are rising by at least 10% compared with the previous week and medical chiefs have declared a crisis.

Michigan, another election battleground state, logged a one-day record of more than 3,500 new cases.

Donald Trump is battling for re-election next Tuesday against his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. He and fellow Democrats in Congress have excoriated Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump pushed to reopen the US economy, sometimes against the advice of his own government health experts, while many of his supporters in Michigan and elsewhere protested lockdown and mitigation efforts.

Illinois reported more than 6,000 new cases on Wednesday, the biggest increase of any state in the country and topping the 5,700 new cases in the much more populous state of Texas and 4,200 new cases in California, according to a Reuters tally of state and county reports.