Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, sent an alarming message about the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. on Sunday. Birx said that what the country is experiencing now is different than in March and April, which saw the rapid acceleration of virus transmission in the country.
In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, Birx said that, compared to March and April, the virus today was “extraordinarily widespread” in both rural and urban areas. Birx also stated that the U.S. was in a “new phase” of the pandemic, which required tailored recommendations on a state-by-state basis.
She specifically directed her words at people who lived in rural areas and those who lived with people who may be at higher risk for developing complications from the covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
For people living in rural areas, Birx stressed that they were “not immune or protected” from this virus and stated that they, and all Americans, needed to wear a mask, socially distance and have good personal hygiene practices.
“More importantly, if you’re in multi-generational households and there’s an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you’re positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities,” Birx said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers older adults and people with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney disease and obesity, among others, to be at high risk of developing severe illness from covid-19.
On the topic of schools, Birx said she agreed with the recommendation given by Trump administration officials that suggested that schools in areas with a more than 5% positivity rate, so-called hot spots, use distancing learning for a certain amount of time.
Birx’s comments on schools are aligned with the recent shift in stance by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump had previously demanded that schools reopen in full and threatened to cut funding for those that did not do so. For Trump, who obviously sees different numbers than the rest of the nation and the world, it was safe for schools to reopen. He even bullied the CDC into changing its school reopening guidelines.
However, in recent weeks, Trump has acknowledged that some school districts might need to delay reopening for a few weeks. The president said he would leave that decision up to the governors. Ironically, the school attended by his youngest son, Barron, will not reopen for in-person instruction until October.
In July, the U.S. reported 1.9 million new cases of covid-19, according to the Wall Street Journal, which is more than double the number of new cases in any other previous month. As of Sunday, the U.S. had more 4.6 million coronavirus cases, by far the worst outbreak in the world, and more than 154,000 deaths.