Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, made a statement yesterday that the United States is entering a “new phase” of the pandemic. She said that it’s much more extensive than the outbreaks that occurred earlier this year in New York and Seattle. According to her, the virus “is extraordinarily widespread” and even rural areas are impacted.
Dr. Birx says the primary mode of transmission is through asymptomatic individuals. The three leading practices to help prevent the spread are wearing masks, thorough handwashing, and avoiding crowds. She even goes so far as to say, “If you have 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 household with co-morbidities.”
Other health officials, such as Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, agree with Dr. Birx’s assessment. He states, “Wearing a mask is incredibly important, but we have to have like 85 or 90 percent of individuals wearing a mask and avoiding crowds” because those numbers give “you the same outcome as a complete shutdown.” He further detailed, “If we don’t do that, and if we don’t limit the indoor crowded spaces, the virus will continue to run.”
Not everyone agrees with Dr. Birx, though, including President Trump. He took to Twitter earlier today, saying that she was “pathetic” because she was trying to gain favor with Nancy Pelosi by saying what she did. The criticism from the President drew a response from the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the Coronavirus Task Force agreed with Dr. Birx’s comments about “inherent community spread.” He added, “When you have community spread, it’s much more difficult to get your arms around that and contain it.” He further elaborated that it’s happening not just in confined areas, such as nursing homes and prisons, but extensively throughout communities.
The back and forth over transmission prevention persist despite data showing the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States nearly doubled in July. There were 1.9 million new infections, or a 42% increase, according to material collected by The New York Times. Before this rise, the previous monthly high was seen in April with over 880,000 new cases. Also, the seven-day average for daily new infections has been staying around 65,000 for the past two weeks. In addition, the average daily death toll rose from 500 per day at the beginning of the month to more than 1,000 by the end. All of this information indicates that the idea of the country taking control of the pandemic soon is not going to happen and highlights the need to take the precautions recommended by Dr. Birx.