Vice President Pence says Philadelphia is area of 'particular concern' amid COVID-19 outbreak

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Thursday, April 9, 2020
Vice President Mike Pence said  Philadelphia could be one of next 'hot-spots' for COVID-19 cases
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Vice President Mike Pence said Philadelphia could be one of next 'hot-spots' for COVID-19 cases

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- During Wednesday night's coronavirus task force briefing, Vice President Mike Pence said the White House is monitoring the coronavirus in Philadelphia.

"An area of particular concern we were briefed on this morning is the City of Philadelphia," Pence said during the briefing.

The vice president says he spoke with Governor Tom Wolf about continuing to support the city.

"I spoke today to Governor Tom Wolf and as we begin to see early trend lines in Philadelphia, I assured him that we were going to continue to flow resources and support to that community," said Pence. "But our message to the people of the Philadelphia area is now more than ever, practice the social distancing so that Philadelphia and to some extent, even Pittsburgh, do not have to endure what other communities before them have had to endure."

The vice president's comments were echoed on Wednesday morning by Dr. Deborah Birx who is leading the White House response to COVID-19.

On Good Morning America Wednesday, Birx stated a similar concern about Philadelphia.

Birx said there is growing optimism that the virus is loosening its grip on the hardest-hit areas.

She said New York City, for example, may be hitting its plateau as the number of hospitalizations drop.

But, that comes as experts narrow their focus on what could be emerging hot spots, and Philadelphia is among them.

"We are concerned about the metro area of Washington and Baltimore. We are concerned right now about the Philadelphia area," Birx said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 4,777 confirmed cases in Philadelphia. A total of 78 people have died.

In contrast to Birx's and Pence's statements, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said during a news conference on Wednesday that things in the city are "looking a little bit better."

"I don't know exactly what numbers she is looking at, and I doubt she is looking at numbers as updated as we are...but at the moment, things are looking a little bit better," he said.

Farley added, "I'm glad she's concerned about Philadelphia."

Farley said the city continues to see cases among clusters or congregate settings including nursing homes and jails. Sixty-two inmates have tested positive for the virus, and 32 people have died from the virus while in a nursing home.

Farley said he is hopeful the number of positive cases will begin to plateau in the not too distant future, however, the number of deaths will continue to rise over the next days and weeks.

Both Philadelphia officials and the White House stressed the importance of maintaining the stay-at-home strategy to avoid the worst - and to stave off what she said could be a second wave of infections.