Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Washington.

Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

Dr. Deborah Birx, lead coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, expressed concern about lingering outbreaks in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC. 

DC and its suburbs have the highest rate of positive coronavirus tests in the country, Birx said at a news briefing on Friday.

LA and Chicago also continue to report high daily case counts.

But all three cities have their sights on reopening.

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As many US cities witness a decline in reported coronavirus cases, three cities still struggle to contain their outbreaks. At a news briefing on Friday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the lead coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, identified lingering hotspots in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC. 

“Even though Washington has remained closed, LA has remained closed, Chicago has remained closed, we still see these ongoing cases,” Birx said. She added that she had asked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with these municipalities “to really understand where these new cases are coming from and what do we need to do to prevent them in the future.”

Washington, DC and its suburbs have the highest rate of positive coronavirus tests in the country, Birx said on Friday. Around 18% of the district’s coronavirus tests have come back positive since the start of the outbreak, the Washington Post reported. That share dropped down to 11% over the last week, but Maryland’s weekly rate is still around 18%. In Northern Virginia, the weekly rate of positive tests was 25% as of May 18. 

Birx said 42 states have seen weekly positive-test rates of less than 10% — an indicator that they have reached sufficient testing capacity, according to Harvard’s Global Health Institute.

The positive-test rate in LA recently dropped to 9%, but the county confirmed more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections on Friday. According to California guidelines, LA would need to maintain a positivity rate of 8% or lower for more than a week in order to reopen.

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As of May 17, the northeast region of Illinois, which includes Chicago and its suburbs, had a positive-test rate of around 18%. If that rate stays below 20% for two weeks straight, the region could begin reopening non-essential businesses like salons and barbershops. But Illinois state health officials announced more than 2,700 new infections on Friday. 

LA, DC, and Chicago are still headed toward reopeningA woman waits to cross Michigan Avenue along the Magnificent Mile shopping district on March 20, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Local officials in each city still have their sights on reopening. 

“Overall the data points are looking pretty good on our journey to recovery,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County’s public health officer, told Courthouse News on Friday. “We are moving in the right direction.”

LA’s coronavirus hospitalizations and death rates have started to decline in the last week. Data suggests that the virus is now infecting less than one other person, on average, throughout the county. Epidemiologists usually interpret that as a sign that an outbreak is contained.

In Chicago, coronavirus hospitalizations have also started to decline, along the number of coronavirus patients in the ICU and the number of coronavirus patients on ventilators.

“Everything is trending cautiously in the right direction,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said at a briefing on Friday. “We’re keeping an eye on it, but feeling confident that we are are starting to get on the other side of our peak.”

DC has also seen a steady decline in community spread of the virus.

“We’re heading in the right direction, but not with a steep drop like you see in many other places,” Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health, told NPR about the district’s outbreak. 

White House guidance suggests that states should see a two-week decline in cases before reopening. LA, DC, and Chicago may be nearing that point — but they haven’t reached it yet.

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