April 8 (UPI) -- Vice President Mike Pence said he was briefed Wednesday that Philadelphia has become an "area of particular concern" for the COVID-19 outbreak.
During a briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Pence said he spoke to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf about providing aid to the city as it experiences an increase in new coronavirus cases.
"An area of particular concern we were briefed on this morning is the city of Philadelphia. I spoke to Gov. 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," he said.
Dr. Deborah Birx said the Philadelphia metropolitan area has seen an increase of 1,400 cases per day and Pennsylvania's Department of Health reported the state had 16,329 cases of COVID-19 and 309 deaths related to the virus as of Wednesday afternoon.
Pence urged people in Philadelphia and other metropolitan areas in the state to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
"Our message to the people of the Philadelphia area is now more than ever, practice the social distancing and so that Philadelphia and to some extent Pittsburgh, do not have to endure what other communities before them have had to endure," he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this will be a "bad week" as deaths from the COVID-19 Pandemic will be high and near their peak but added that it should be followed within days by the "beginning of a turnaround."
Fauci said in an interview with Fox News the rate of increase in new cases is slowing and hospitalizations nationwide are declining. He warned, however, that Americans need to keep pushing "mitigation strategies."
"Because there is no doubt that is having a positive impact on the dynamics of the outbreak," he said. "Now is not the time to pull back at all. It's the time to intensify."
Earlier, Fauci said White House estimates of between 100,000 and 240,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States will likely be revised downward if people keep up social distancing and Birx said that models projecting the number of American deaths have declined drastically in recent days due to changes in Americans' behavior.
"I think what has been so remarkable I think to those of us that have been in the science field for so long is how important behavioral change is and how amazing Americans are at adapting to and following through on these behavioral changes."
New hospitalizations in New York City are also beginning to stabilize and officials need fewer ventilators than they first expected, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an update Wednesday.
"We're now seeing some leveling off," de Blasio told reporters hours after city officials reported the total number of cases is near 75,000.
New York City, which accounts for more than half of the cases in New York state, reported more than 800 new deaths Tuesday night.
De Blasio echoed Fauci's warning by urging New Yorkers to "double down" on taking social distancing precautions.
"We know we're not out of the woods, it's too early, it's too preliminary," he said. "It would be dangerous to take a small amount of information and decide too many things based off of it."
In Washington, D.C., Democratic congressional leaders are working on the next coronavirus relief bill, which might include billions in aid for working families, state and local governments, hospitals and small businesses.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement they agree with a White House pitch for $250 billion for small business. They proposed, however, that $125 billion of the total be channeled through banks that serve "farmers, family, women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses."
The Democratic leaders also seek an additional $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments "to manage this crisis and mitigate lost revenue." After the bill, they said they'll move to pass a "CARES 2" package to extend and expand the $2.2 trillion relief package passed last month.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday the first contract to make ventilators under the Defense Production Act, worth $489 million, was awarded to General Motors. The automaker is ordered to deliver 30,000 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August, including 6,100 by June 1.
GM said it's working with Ventec Life Systems of Bothell, Wash., to build the ventilators at a manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Ind.
"GM and Ventec Life Systems are working with speed and urgency to arm front-line medical professionals with the critical care ventilators they need to treat seriously ill patients," the companies said.