Birx’s message to schools: Everybody should be wearing a mask

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 9:15 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As schools reopen, some students are already testing positive for COVID-19.

Gray Television Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro sat down with White House Coronavirus Task Force member, Dr. Deborah Birx, for an exclusive interview and asked Birx if some schools reopened too soon.

“I think every single county...needs to look at what their case rates are, what their test positives are,” Birx said. “Because if they’re finding students already positive, most likely, they were infected in the community and came to school already positive.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance about hygiene, distancing, and face coverings in schools, but there’s no national mandate. So school administrators across the country are making the decisions.

“What’s your message to schools that don’t mandate masks?” Policastro asked.

“They should have masks,” Birx said. “I’ve gone around the country with that same, same comment. Everybody -- to protect themselves and to protect others -- should be wearing a mask.”

The CDC also leaves whether or not to test students for coronavirus up to schools. Some researchers think testing as many students as possible using antigen tests could help slow the spread. Antigen tests are a faster and cheaper option for COVID-19 testing, but can be less accurate than other kinds of tests.

“Do you think schools need to be testing students for coronavirus?” Policastro asked.

“If you wait for someone to have symptoms, you could have active spread in the schools,” Birx said. “It’s very important that every school has a plan.”

There’s still a lot we don’t know about coronavirus and kids. While most kids are not getting as sick as adults, Birx said they might be just as capable of spreading the disease.

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