White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday there are early signs that a coronavirus outbreak could be brewing in Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.
The so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests run that are positive, appears to be rising in those states — an early indication that the outbreak is worsening, Fauci said. While President Donald Trump and others have blamed the rise in cases in the U.S. on increased testing, a growing positivity rate can't be blamed on increased testing.
"That's a surefire sign that you've got to be really careful," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America."
Coronavirus outbreaks that have ripped through the South have recently shown signs of slowing after states delayed or rolled back reopening plans, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases were growing by more than 10% in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee as of Monday compared with a week ago, based on a seven-day average.
Kentucky and Ohio additionally reported a record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations Monday, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project.
White House health advisor Dr. Deborah Birx in the past several days visited states where federal health authorities hope to "control the pandemic before it gets worse," she said, including Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. "This current group of states ... are the next set of states where we have significant concerns about the rising test positivity rate and the rising number of cases," Birx told reporters at a press conference in Kentucky on Sunday after meeting with Gov. Andy Beshear.
Birx warned that the coronavirus is beginning to take hold in more rural areas, a sign that people are bringing the virus back to their communities after visiting other cities. She said there are states that need to consider closing their bars and reducing indoor gatherings to 10 people or less.
"We can see what is happening in the South moving North," Birx said.
However, President Donald Trump on Monday suggested more states should consider reopening their businesses as outbreaks in parts of the country show signs of slowing.
"I really do believe a lot of the governors should be opening up states that are not opening," Trump said during a coronavirus briefing at the Bioprocess Innovation Center at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in Morrisville, North Carolina. "We'll see what happens with them."
Fauci told ABC on Tuesday that states should follow the national guidelines that the White House coronavirus task force set forth earlier this year for reopening. The guidelines suggest reopening in two-week phases as long as cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, among other things.
"That really is the national strategy. This was the recommendation that was made," he said.