Jul 7, 2020 - Health

Birx: Some Southern states "stepped on the gas" when reopening

Deborah Birx wears a face mask
Deborah Birx participates at the White House on July 7. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Many of the Southern states that are experiencing a significant surge in coronavirus infections "stepped on the gas" while lifting lockdown restrictions, unlike the regions in the North that were hit hard in March and April, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx told Wharton Business Daily on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The White House published non-binding guidelines in April that recommended states report 14 days of declining coronavirus cases before reopening. Most states did not meet that criteria, according to the New York Times.

  • Anthony Fauci, another member of the coronavirus task force, testified to Congress that states are "skipping over" coronavirus reopening guidelines, leading to a surge in infections.
  • Vice President Pence, meanwhile, has pushed back against claims that the new surge is a result of states reopening too quickly.

Driving the news: Several Southern states — including Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida — broke records for their highest single-day coronavirus case counts last week. The virus now threatens to overwhelm hospital systems in a number of Southern cities and states.

What she's saying:

"We are starting to see a small uptick, but the South, which didn't experience a significant outbreak through the March, April timeframe, I think came at this opening in a different way than the Northeast or the Midwest that had experience with the outbreak. And so when they opened, instead of gating closely through all of the recommended gates, a lot of individuals and a lot of businesses instead of driving 25 in a 25 mile an hour zone, stepped on the gas and started going 65, and it's really evident now in the spread of cases across most age groups.
"We're very grateful that individuals in the older age group continue to shelter. They need to continue to do that across the South so that we can ensure that those with preexisting conditions and those over 65 are protected from this virus, which can be deadly in their age group.”
— Birx, on Wharton Business Daily

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