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Birx Makes Private Warning To New Orleans Leaders As COVID-19 Deaths Spike Elsewhere In Louisiana

Patrick Madden

Another 60 people were reported dead of COVID-19 across Louisiana on Wednesday — three times the daily average for July and the biggest increase since May 1. The state's coronavirus death toll is now 3,558.

And in the same day the Louisiana Department of Health made that grim update, the Center for Public Integrity published a report that says Dr. Deborah Birx, a leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, made private phone calls to state and local leaders of 11 cities to tell them they should take “aggressive” steps to mitigate their outbreaks. New Orleans is among them.

The other 10 cities raising task-force alarm are Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

Those warnings, Harvard epidemiologist Bill Hanage told the Center for Public Integrity, should be made public.

“This is a pandemic. You cannot hide it under the carpet,” he said. “The best way to deal with a crisis or a natural disaster is to be straight with people, to earn their trust and to give the information they need to make decisions for themselves and their communities.”

After Louisiana's rate of positive coronavirus tests showed improvement throughout May and much of June, the numbers began to jump up in July. But the positivity rate in New Orleans has been relatively low, hovering around the 10 percent line, while the rates in other LDH regions, particularly the Southwest and Acadiana regions, soar. 

None of the 60 deaths reported on Wednesday were in the New Orleans region (as designated by LDH). As first pointed out, nearly half of those deaths were in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday that the state will remain in Phase 2 for another two weeks.

"As of July 15, all regions of Louisiana had a 7-day average positivity of new tests that was greater than 10 percent and the overall statewide positivity rate was 15.46 percent," a press release following the announcement said. "The state’s aim is for this rate to be below 10 percent."

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