Doctors behind a COVID-modeling study used by the president’s coronavirus task force are now warning that virus hot spots are beginning to converge and jump from county to county as people increase their travel for work and summer vacation.
According to doctors working on a study put together by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the virus is moving along major highways and interstates—such I-10 in California, I-85 in the south and I-95 on the East Coast—as states continue to reopen their economies. With an uptick of coronavirus cases taking place in states in the south and southwestern parts of the country, this new finding has raised fears that new outbreaks may soon move north to major metropolitan regions, reversing the progress already made in flattening the curve.
“There’s a convergence of metro areas that’s now leading to these larger epicenters of transmission. Places that were already in trouble … are the ones that are slipping out of control,” said Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab. “For example the southwest outbreak is moving right up the I-5. You can see the risk all the way up. We’re a week or two away from Sacramento and San Francisco.”
The findings from PolicyLab are the latest warning sign to emerge as the majority of states have now moved into the second phase of their reopening plans, with restaurants, religious communities and some places of work open for business. Rubin’s fear, as culled from the data, is that as individuals begin to relax their own social distancing measures they have begun to travel more within their communities and to other surrounding states, thereby spreading the disease.
The new analysis comes as President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign continue to move forward with plans to hold large rallies across the country, including in cities with increasing cases such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona. The president is insistent on campaigning despite members of his own coronavirus task force sounding the alarm over the growth in cases where increased testing is not a dominant reason for the spike. Over the past several weeks task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has told governors that she is concerned about the new outbreaks, especially in regions that were already struggling to flatten the curve before reopening. Birx also said she was worried about protests causing a spike in cases, but no evidence has emerged to confirm that fear.
And during a conference call with governors on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence highlighted increased cases in North Carolina, California and Arizona as a problematic sign. “They have seen some increase in cases that are not necessarily accounted for entirely via an increase in testing,” Pence said, according to a recording of the call obtained by The Daily Beast. “We are re-deploying [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] personnel in those states and also we are sending additional personnel.”
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Source: Daily Beast