Ex-FDA commissioner says US coronavirus epidemic likely to be national

Ex-FDA commissioner says US coronavirus epidemic likely to be national
© Greg Nash

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE's former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, is warning that the coronavirus epidemic in the United States is "likely to be national in scope."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, likewise warned at a briefing on Thursday that the Detroit and Chicago areas are emerging as hot spots. 

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The warnings come as Trump is signaling his eagerness to ease up on restrictions designed to slow the virus's spread, in an effort to restart the economy. 

Trump on Thursday wrote a letter to governors announcing a plan to classify counties by risk level, signaling that he thinks some areas could ease restrictions before others. 

The prevalence of the virus in multiple areas across the U.S. is concerning to experts, though, given that China was able to contain the worst of the outbreak to one province, Hubei, where the virus began, though it still had to deal with cases elsewhere.

"China had a bonfire in Hubei but was stamping out sparks everywhere else," tweeted Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. 

"We've now got a bonfire in NYC and campfires almost everywhere else - and all still shooting out sparks."

The United States on Thursday became the world leader in known coronavirus cases, surpassing Italy and China, and now has 86,012, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. 

Experts say that to turn the corner on stopping the virus and allow for easing up on the blunt instrument of telling everyone to stay home, the U.S. needs to significantly increase testing to allow for sick people to be identified and isolated. 

The Trump administration took heavy criticism for the extremely slow start to testing, though the situation has improved somewhat.