Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, speaks after a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.
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Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said on Sunday that the U.S. is “in a new phase” of battling against the coronavirus pandemic and urged Americans to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread … it’s more widespread and it’s both rural and urban,” Birx said during an interview on CNN.
“To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” Birx said. “And that is why we keep saying, no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces.”
The U.S. has more than 4.6 million coronavirus cases and at least 154,449 deaths, the most of any country, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.
Asked about former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s warning that the country could experience 300,000 deaths by the end of 2020, Birx responded that “Anything is possible” but declined to provide details on current projections.
Birx said the U.S. virus death toll will depend on how southern and western states with the worst outbreaks respond to the virus over the coming weeks.
The virus is rapidly spreading across much of the Midwest, as well in states like Florida and California that have experienced a significant surge in infections. The Northeast, once the epicenter of the virus, has seen a decline in cases since hitting a peak in April.
“It’s not super spreading individuals, it’s super spreading events and we need to stop those,” Birx said. “We definitely need to take more precautions.”
Asked if schools should stay closed and have remote learning in areas where there is a 5% positivity rate, Birx deferred to the CDC’s guidelines on school reopenings.
“If you have high case load and active community spread, just like we are asking people not to go to bars, not to have household parties, not to create large spreading events, we are asking people to distance learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control,” Birx said.