KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, is one of several cities across the country that has the attention of the White House coronavirus task force.
According to a recording of a call between task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and state and local officials that was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, Kansas City is one of 10 areas of concern.
Kansas City is joined on the list by Portland, Oregon, Omaha, Nebraska, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and California’s Central Valley.
In an interview Thursday morning on CNN, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Dr. Anthony Fauci said the cities have the potential to become hot spots due to an increase in the rate of positive COVID-19 test results.
“It’s a clear indication that you are getting an uptick in cases, which inevitably… leads to surges and then you get hospitalizations and then you get deaths,” Fauci said on CNN. “It’s a pretty good predictor, usually before people become aware of it.”
The Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department's last update to its COVID-19 dashboard came on Monday, Aug. 3, which showed the most recent percent positivity rate at 5.13%. The health department says recent data is provisional and subject to change.
Director of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department Dr. Rex Archer said Kansas City is seeing about 100 new cases a day, but there aren't many urban areas in the country not seeing increases in positivity rates.
Archer said the city is seeing a significant increase in deaths.
"We've had 74 deaths that we know of, and we know there are more than that but they're not being reported to us," Archer said. "We have to now scan the obituaries and match up those names with folks that we know were positive and ill."
When it comes to a possible shutdown, Archer said it's not completely off the table because of the virus's ability to possibly mutate. However, he said a full shutdown would have downsides.
"If we're not getting federal relief or mechanisms that people can pay their rent or keep from being evicted there are a lot of other health consequences to the economy not moving forward," Archer said.
Archer recommends a voluntary shutdown for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s and those who have underlying medical conditions.
"People shouldn't be out," Archer said. "I would question somebody's mental capacity if they're in those high-risk categories and they go to a bar or indoor dining of a restaurant because you can't be wearing a mask while you're eating and drinking," Archer said.
A spokesperson from Mayor Quinton Lucas's office sent 41 Action News the following statement, saying the Mayor and Dr. Archer met Thursday with other health officials to continue discussions.
“The White House Coronavirus Task Force and Dr. Deborah Birx have identified the Kansas City region as one of several potential hotspots in the Midwest for rising cases of COVID-19, especially through asymptomatic people under 30 years old. We are carefully monitoring the numbers and considering some of Dr. Birx’s recommendations to keep the infection rate down.”
Fauci said that despite the city landing on the list, residents and leaders can take simple steps to limit negative consequences. He encouraged the continued wearing of masks, hand washing, keeping social distance and avoiding large gatherings.