US seeing unprecedented coronavirus spread, White House says

Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows that Covid-19 deaths in North Dakota and South Dakota have now surpassed South Korea despite a substantially smaller population.

Posted: Nov 19, 2020 2:25 AM
Updated: Nov 19, 2020 9:15 PM


The United States is seeing the fastest spread yet of the coronavirus, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said in its first public briefing in four months on Thursday.

Yet, task force members spoke out against the idea of nationwide lockdowns or school closures and held out hope that a vaccine will soon be available to help protect Americans.

Dr. Deborah Birx, once a senior member of the task force, said she's been traveling the country trying to encourage governors and other state and local leaders to enact measures that will stop the spread of the virus.

She's had mixed results at best.

She showed a series of graphs showing the current increase in cases is sharper and steeper than at any other time during the pandemic.

'This is more cases, more rapidly, than what we had seen before,' Birx said. 'You can see the increase in test positivity to around 10%,' she added. That's the number of people tested who get a positive diagnosis.

Breaking record after record

Birx displayed a map awash in red, showing the number of daily hospitalizations, which now regularly tops 70,000.

The US hit a new record for daily reported diagnoses on Thursday, with 182,601 new cases reported by 9 p.m., according to Johns Hopkins University.

'We do know what to do and we are asking every American to do those things today,' she added. That starts with wearing masks, but also staying apart and limiting gatherings, she said.

The virus spreads even when people do not show symptoms, Birx noted. 'It is because of this asymptomatic spread that we are asking people to wear a mask indoors,' she said. Birx also said 'decreasing those friend and family gatherings where people come together and unknowingly spread the virus,' will help slow the spread.

Earlier Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving.

But other members of the task force said they would not support a nationwide lockdown.

'President Trump wanted me to make it clear that our task force, this administration and our President, does not support another national lockdown. And we do not support closing schools,' Vice President Mike Pence said at the briefing.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield agreed and said, without citing the research, that studies have shown the virus does not spread in schools.

'Today there's extensive data we have gathered over the last two to three months to confirm that K through 12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning and they can do it safely,' Redfield said.

Several CDC spokespeople said they could not immediately identify what data Redfield was talking about.

'The infections that we've identified in schools, when they've been evaluated, were not acquired in schools. They were actually acquired in the community and in the household,' Redfield said.

Casual get-togethers and silent transmission of the virus by people who don't even know they are infected are a large part of the problem, Redfield said.

Families getting too comfortable

'It's small family gatherings, were people become more comfortable, they remove their face masks, and they get together. It's a silent epidemic,' he said.

'For kids, one of the safest places they can be is to remain in school. It's really important that following the data, making sure we don't make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close, and I'm here to say clearly the data strongly supports that K through 12 schools and institutes of higher learning really are not where we are having our challenges,' Redfield added.

The big hope, the task force members agreed, is a vaccine.

Coronavirus vaccines under development by Moderna and Pfizer have shown 95% efficacy in preventing symptomatic infections and Pfizer is expected to file for Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization Friday.

'That is extraordinary,' National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the briefing. 'That is almost to the level of what we see with measles (vaccine), which is 98% effective.'

If they are approved, the task force members said the vaccines will be rolled out quickly.

'Help is on the way'

'We are telling you that help is on the way,' Fauci said.

But he said that means people must now increase their use of masks, avoiding gatherings and keeping their distance from others.

'If you are fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the way, you don't stop shooting until the cavalry gets here,' Fauci said.

'It means that we need to actually double down on the public health measures as we are waiting for that help to come, which will be soon,' said Fauci. 'If we do that, we'll be able to hold things off until the vaccine comes.'

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 154878

Reported Deaths: 2206
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31824528
Washington21099212
Marion18373285
Clackamas13328175
Lane10200126
Jackson8315111
Umatilla763982
Deschutes593459
Yamhill376764
Linn357756
Malheur334458
Polk303942
Klamath278455
Douglas244754
Josephine232849
Benton232516
Jefferson195128
Coos144019
Union128119
Columbia124821
Wasco122026
Lincoln112820
Hood River106429
Morrow104614
Clatsop7756
Crook77518
Baker6507
Curry4246
Tillamook4142
Lake3746
Harney2736
Grant2221
Wallowa1424
Gilliam531
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3559311

Reported Deaths: 51794
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles118923221241
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2860772783
Orange2607213982
San Diego2589823260
Santa Clara1102371777
Kern102627811
Fresno950151422
Sacramento929611464
Alameda802791241
Ventura77395834
San Joaquin665691082
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus55887946
Tulare47784746
Monterey42138327
San Mateo38872515
San Francisco34138398
Santa Barbara31763407
Solano30024164
Merced28915395
Sonoma28004298
Imperial26855589
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15414209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12787185
Shasta10969174
Butte10922160
El Dorado9095100
Napa899869
Sutter884597
San Benito575259
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Tuolumne394659
Nevada394074
Mendocino379643
Amador344841
Humboldt318033
Lake314140
Glenn221923
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128736
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
Unassigned00
Medford
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