RICHMOND, Va. – Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, suggests Virginia should enforce tougher restrictions on bars, introduce more outdoor dining options and limit the size of social gatherings. She also stressed the importance of wearing a mask.
Speaking to Gov. Ralph Northam and his team on Tuesday, Virginia was the latest stop on her nationwide tour of hotspots.
“What we’re seeing across the South right now is both rural infections, as well as small metros, and major metros, simultaneously,” said Birx the country’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator.
While states like Texas and Arizona have taken extreme efforts to curb their outbreaks and are seeing stabilization, Birx said testing efforts need to improve nationwide.
She addressed testing turnaround times with commercial labs, saying that some solutions they discussed with labs include adding more manpower within those labs, but also the federal government tapping universities to use their own equipment for testing.
She said that more testing resources likely won’t be available until the fall.
“What always worries me is that there’s people that have gone to the Virginia Beach area or the Portsmouth area or the Hampton area, and unknowingly bring that virus back,” Birx said. “Even if it’s a neighbor down the street, you don’t know what their vacation and travel history has been, and we are seeing significant outbreaks occurring from birthday parties, graduation parties, family reunions. I know no one intends on bringing the virus into those situations but we have to remember that every Virginian who is under 35 – most of you will not have significant symptoms and you might not know you’re infected.”
Birx said voluntarily following those guidelines in other places like Southwest Virginia will help even more.
WSLS 10 News has previously reported some localities in Southwest Virginia have contemplated dialing back reopening efforts.
Birx said, ultimately, it would be up to each state’s governor and local leaders to enact tougher guidelines.