Politico

Birx frustrated by 'parroting back' of virus misinformation


White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said Sunday she’s frustrated with the persistence of false claims about the spread of the virus.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Birx said she’s heard members of local communities “parroting back” misinformation about the effectiveness of masks and called for stronger mitigation efforts.

“When I go out, I just don’t meet with healthcare providers and governors and mayors, but I also meet with the community,” Birx said. “And so I hear community members parroting back those situations, parroting back that masks don’t work, parroting back that we should work toward herd immunity, parroting back that gatherings don’t result in super-spreading events. And I think our job is to constantly say those are myths.”

“And right now, across the Sun Belt, we have governors and mayors who have cases equivalent to what they had in the summertime, yet aren’t putting in the same policies and mitigations that they put in the summer, that they know changed the course of this pandemic across the South,” she added. “So it is frustrating because not only do we know what works, governors and mayors used those tools to stem the tide in the spring and the summer.”

Public health officials have stepped up their warnings as coronavirus cases hit record levels. A million new cases were diagnosed in the United States in the first five days of December.

Host Chuck Todd pressed Birx on President Donald Trump and other administration officials contradicting public health warnings. Birx didn’t mention Trump or other officials, but expressed frustration with false claims about the virus and echoed concerns about the severity of its spread, noting that cases are increasing in every state except for Hawaii.

“I think it’s really important that every single person understands that the way this virus is spread is if you’re with anyone indoors without a mask, that’s a viral spreading opportunity,” Birx said. “If you’re outdoors and hugging and kissing individuals, that is a viral spreading opportunity. We have to really understand how contagious, how infectious, this virus is.”

“So this is where we find ourselves,” she said. “And we have to listen right now to what we know works, which is mask, physical distancing, washing your hands. But not gathering. You cannot gather without masks in any indoor or close outdoor situation.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week issued its strongest mask-wearing guidance yet, recommending people wear masks whenever they’re not at home. Birx appeared on camera wearing a mask.

“This is not just the worst public health event, this is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side. Yet, we know what behaviors spread the virus, and we know how to change those behaviors to stop spreading the virus.”

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