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Birx Says US Is in a 'New Phase' of Pandemic with Rise in Cases and Deaths

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Birx Says US Is in a 'New Phase' of Pandemic with Rise in Cases and Deaths

2020-08-03 17:24:58

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Deborah Birx (Image source: Screencap)

After being criticized for agreeing with Donald Trump and casting too much of a positive spin on the health crisis, Dr. Deborah Birx, the other doctor who is part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force along with Dr. Anthony Fauci, has admitted that the United States has entered a "new phase" of the coronavirus pandemic. With this admission, she is also urging people to take extreme health precautions.

"I want to be very clear: what we're seeing today is different from March and April," said the doctor. She noted that cases are increasing in both rural and urban areas and that it's "extraordinarily widespread."

Birx also commented on former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb's estimate that there could be more than 300,000 deaths by the end of 2020. She commented, "anything is possible" and said it would be much less likely if people practiced social distancing and avoided large gatherings.

After the New York Times reported that her optimistic outlook about the status of the pandemic led to decisions to reopen, which brought on on the recent surge, she endured her share of criticism.

One of those critics was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She said on Sunday, "I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus, and she is his appointee," adding, "So I don't have confidence there, no."

Birx defended her handling of the pandemic and said, "I have tremendous respect for the speaker. I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people," yet also said she has "never been called Pollyannaish or nonscientific or non-data driven."

Twenty states have been warned by Birx and Fauci that the spread of the virus is accelerating is those areas. While mitigation efforts have helped in some places, Birx emphasized that people need to follow strict social distancing rules and wear masks. She believes people who live in multigenerational households should "really consider" wearing masks while inside their homes.

Four hundred seventy-eight more deaths were reported on Sunday. Texas has been averaging nearly 300 deaths per day. California reported 219 deaths on Saturday, a record there. Florida reported 257 deaths on Friday. Across the country, there were more than 1,000 deaths for the sixth day in a row.

Although there are schools reopening in some areas, Birx suggested that schools avoid in-person instruction in areas where new cases are rising. This advice goes against what Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have been preaching.

"If you have high caseload and active community spread — just like we're asking people not to go to bars, not to have household parties, not to create large spreading events, we're asking people to distance-learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control,"  Birx suggested.

Some schools that have opened are already reporting coronavirus trouble. At least five schools reported that either a student or employee tested positive for COVID-19. Elwood Junior Senior High School in Indiana announced it will close this week after it announced positive cases.

Experts believe the reason there is a longer lag time between infections and deaths because many of the new outbreaks have been among young, healthy adults who passed the virus to older and more vulnerable people. Additionally, testing allows health-care workers to identify cases closer to the time people are infected.

"Overall, what this tells us is that now that deaths have started to increase, we can expect them to crease for several more weeks," said Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University. "We cannot afford to pretend everything is fine and heading back to normal."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent analysis of COVID-19 deaths shows new deaths are increasing over the next month. 5,000 to 11,000 new deaths are projected for the third week in August. The CDC estimates the death total across the country could be between 168,000 and 182,000 by then. 

Trump, however, tweeted on Sunday, "USA will be stronger than ever before, and soon!"

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