Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing serial existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education on July 8, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'This Is a Pandemic. You Cannot Hide It': Experts Denounce White House Secrecy in Private Warning to Cities to Take 'Aggressive' Covid Action

"The more that we can provide information to people to keep themselves and their families safe, the better off we'll be."

Julia Conley

A private warning about rising coronavirus cases made to leaders in 11 cities by White House official Dr. Deborah Birx on Wednesday is the latest sign that the Trump administration must end the secrecy surrounding its response to the pandemic, an investigative journalism group said Wednesday. 

In an exclusive report about Birx's Wednesday phone call to city officials, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) revealed that Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have all been identified this week as cities where immediate, "aggressive" action is needed to mitigate their coronavirus outbreaks. 

All the cities are seeing increases in coronavirus test positivity rates. Birx told officials that as soon as even a slight climb in positivity rates is detected, city leaders must begin mitigation efforts such as contact tracing, closing restaurants, and urging residents to wear masks. 

"If you wait another three or four or even five days, you’ll start to see a dramatic increase in cases," Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said on the call. 

According to Vanderbilt University researchers, Nashville's positivity rate has already been going up for several weeks. 

Public health experts identified Birx's private call, which was closed to the press, as the latest evidence that the White House is keeping key information about the pandemic from the public—a trend that could continue to weaken the nation's ability to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

"This is a pandemic. You cannot hide it under the carpet," Bill Hanage, a Harvard epidemiologist, told CPI. "The best way to deal with a crisis or a natural disaster is to be straight with people, to earn their trust, and to give the information they need to make decisions for themselves and their communities."

The call came less than a week after CPI reported on a list of 18 states which the White House had privately identified as being in the pandemic "red zone," meaning they each had more than 100 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the last week. 

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, wondered why information about "red zone" states is not being disseminated to the public on a regular basis, allowing people to make choices about the amount of contact they have with others while cases are going up.

"The fact that it's not public makes no sense to me," Jha told CPI. "Why are we hiding this information from the American people?"

Neil Ralston, a journalism professor in St. Louis, also asked on Twitter why the White House would want to keep secret the need for aggressive action in his city.

CPI reported that while hundreds of emergency managers and political leaders from the states and cities in question were on the call, Baltimore's health department was not informed of the call. In order to get vital public health information promptly to the public, one epidemiologist told CPI, the White House must look beyond communicating with elected officials.

"It's not just people who are holding office who need to make decisions," Caitlin Rivers of Johns Hopkins University said. "The more that we can provide information to people to keep themselves and their families safe, the better off we'll be."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Hangs Up After Boebert Uses Call to Double Down on 'Outright Bigotry and Hate'

"Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments."

Jessica Corbett ·

Win for Alabama Workers as NLRB Orders New Union Vote After Amazon's Alleged Misconduct

A union leader said the decision confirmed that "Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."

Jessica Corbett ·

'For the Sake of Peace,' Anti-War Groups Demand Biden Return to Nuclear Deal With Iran

"It's time to put differences aside and return to the Iran nuclear deal," said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·

'That's for Them to Decide': UK Secretary Rebuked for Claiming Vaccine Patent Waiver Won't Be 'Helpful' to Global Poor

One U.K. lawmaker asked when the government would "start putting the need to end this pandemic in front of the financial interests of Big Pharma?"

Andrea Germanos ·

Shell Slammed for Plan to Blast South African Coastline for Oil and Gas During Whale Season

"We cannot allow climate criminals, like Shell, to plunder in the name of greed," said Greenpeace.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo