As COVID-19 cases spike, Dr. Deborah Birx emphasizes mask-wearing

 Dr. Deborah Birx says she wears a mask at all times as the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S. (Source: Gray DC)
Dr. Deborah Birx says she wears a mask at all times as the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S. (Source: Gray DC) (GRAYDC)
Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 3:38 PM EDT
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COVID-19 cases continue to surge around the country this week as some states remain mostly open after months of lockdown. The White House coronavirus task force says it is working behind the scenes to mitigate the continued threat.

Once a daily event, briefings from the White House coronavirus task force are now a rarity as positive cases spike around the country. One of the leaders on the task force, Dr. Deborah Birx says they are still guiding states in fighting COVID-19.

“100 percent of the American population in those hot zones, in the red areas of the country should be wearing masks all of the time and social distancing,” said Birx.

Birx says she applauds officials in areas with big spikes for closing down bars, where she says they are seeing a lot of transmission. She is also encouraging Americans to not eat inside restaurants, but to order takeout or eat in the outside areas. She also cautions against taking parties indoors as the weather gets hotter in much of the country.

Dr. Birx says it is not just areas facing a case surge that should consider wearing a mask at all times, but would not go so far as to say a mandate is necessary.

“I wear a mask in all circumstances no matter where I am,” said Birx. "We know that masks work. We think they not only work for preventing infections of others, there's even some information now, early data, that suggests masks may actually protect you from getting infected yourself."

Birx says she is stressing the importance of masks to both state leaders and White House leaders.

President Donald Trump is holding campaign rallies, one inside a Tulsa, OK arena without social distancing measures and many rally-goers choosing to forego masks. The president also says he would like to slow down testing to reflect a lower number of positive cases. On top of that, the president is touting a lower death rate in the U.S. as positive cases surge.

“I’m part of the White House and I support the message of every place Americans taking care, wearing masks, social distancing,” said Birx. “I have never recommended that we slow down testing.”

Dr. Birx would not say whether she would recommend a family member go to one of the president's rallies.

"I've always said every family member needs to protect one another and protect the American community by wearing masks, socially distancing, doing your activities outside," said Birx.

Dr. Ed Ellerbeck, an epidemiologist from the University of Kansas says safety protocols should not be up for debate and leaders should stop controversy.

“I think it’s really wonderful when our leaders lead by example,” said Ellerbeck.

He says masks are good for businesses reopening, and he fears a mindset of masks symbolizing weakness. Ellerbeck argues if everyone comes to terms with safety measures, the economic and health impact will be substantial.

“I’m optimistic that we can potentially do this without completely shutting things down like we did in the past. That was really tough,” said Ellerbeck.

Ellerbeck expects the positive case surge to continue for weeks. He says a drop in cases will depend on how seriously Americans take the threat.

Copyright 2020 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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