White House Advisers Warn of ‘Unrelenting’ COVID-19 Spread in Midwest, West

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Traffic cones to manage cars are seen at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test site at the University of Texas El Paso in El Paso, Texas, Tuesday. (Reuters/Paul Ratje)

The White House coronavirus task force 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, task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci noted that coronavirus cases are rising in 47 states and patients are overwhelming hospitals across the country.

“If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna 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 task force 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 task force 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.

U.S. 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.

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

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

Illinois reported over 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.