Birx says DC metro area has highest positivity rate for coronavirus

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said Friday that the Washington, D.C., metro area currently has the highest COVID-19 positivity rate out of all cities across the country.

Birx said that the D.C. metro area, which includes Northern Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, currently leads the country in the percentage of positive cases compared to the total number of people tested for the novel coronavirus.

The D.C. metro region is followed by Baltimore, Chicago and Minneapolis, Birx said.

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“These are the places where we have seen really a stalling or an increase of cases,” Birx told reporters at an afternoon White House briefing. She pointed to “great progress across the board” in metro areas around the country as coronavirus cases decline.

Birx said that the areas with the largest percentage of cases — Maryland, D.C. and Virginia — all have positivity rates under 20 percent compared to 42 states where positivity rates are under 10 percent.

Birx’s remarks followed an announcement from President Trump declaring houses of worship “essential” and instructing governors to open them.

States across the country have embarked on plans to gradually loosen restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus and reopen their economies.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said earlier this week that the District could begin a phased reopening next week if data continues to improve.

Birx emphasized Friday that it was safe for Americans to engage in some activities like golf and tennis on the Memorial Day holiday but urged people to practice social distancing.

“When you go out for this weekend, Memorial Day, and you want to do some kind of social gathering, it is very important to maintain that six-feet distance and very important to have that mask with you in case that six-feet distance cannot be maintained,” Birx said.