‘A story of two states,’ Birx says of virus in Chicago area vs. rest of Illi­nois

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCH DUDEK, STAFF RE­PORTER mdudek@suntimes.com | @mitch­dudek

Dr. Deb­o­rah L. Birx, the White House coro­n­avirus re­sponse co­or­di­na­tor, con­trasted the Chicago area with other parts of Illi­nois while in town Tues­day to dis­cuss the virus with lo­cal lead­ers.

“It’s like a story of two states right now,” she said. “We see a con­stant, low-grade com­mu­nity in­fec­tion rate in Chicago and the metropoli­tan area.”

“We’ve seen a grow­ing in­crease over the last four weeks in the num­ber of coun­ties that are above 5% and now above 10%, par­tic­u­larly in the south­ern area in Illi­nois.”

Illi­nois has 61 coun­ties with a pos­i­tiv­ity rate of more than 5%, in­clud­ing 13 coun­ties with a pos­i­tiv­ity rate of more than 10%, Birx pointed out dur­ing a news con­fer­ence out­side Rush Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter af­ter a closed-door meet­ing with health of­fi­cials.

“We wanted to re­ally un­der­stand what the state was do­ing to mit­i­gate in those ar­eas,” she said.

Birx also planned to meet Tues­day with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Light­foot to dis­cuss what they plan to do if things get worse.

“We ask ev­ery Amer­i­can and ev­ery­one in Illi­nois to con­tinue wear­ing a mask,” she said.

Birx has been trav­el­ing across the coun­try look­ing at Amer­i­cans’ com­pli­ance with ef­forts to slow the spread of the virus. Illi­nois is the 25th state she’s vis­ited.

“We look at what re­tail is hap­pen­ing, we look at what’s hap­pen­ing in your restau­rants, we talk to baris­tas be­cause we find that they’re a fount of in­for­ma­tion of what is hap­pen­ing, at least at the com­mu­nity level,” Birx said.

She also wanted to en­sure ev­ery univer­sity has a plan to find stu­dents who test pos­i­tive, iso­late them and care for them with­out send­ing them home.

“If you have sent them home to a multi­gen­er­a­tional house­hold, you may un­in­ten­tion­ally cre­ate spread­ing events in their home­town com­mu­nity,” she said.

“If you have been at a party or an event or you had a large gath­er­ing, po­ten­tial ex­po­sure did oc­cur and you need to as­sume that un­til you get tested that you could have the virus be­cause you could be asymp­to­matic,” she said.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx said Tues­day out­side Rush Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter, “We ask ev­ery Amer­i­can and ev­ery­one in Illi­nois to con­tinue wear­ing a mask.”

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