White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that social distancing is "absolutely critical" and that if Americans can't maintain at least 6 feet from other people while gathering outside, they "must wear a mask."

Why it matters: As states have begun to reopen, many Americans have flocked to beaches and outdoor restaurants in large numbers to celebrate Memorial Day weekend. Birx warned that people could be spreading the virus unknowingly, and she asked those with comorbidities to remain sheltered in place.

What she's saying: "We've made it clear that there's asymptomatic spread, and that means that people are spreading the virus unknowingly," Birx said. "And this is unusual in the case of respiratory diseases in many cases."

  • "You don't know who's infected. So we really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical."
  • Asked about President Trump's call to open places of worship last week, Birx told "Fox News Sunday" that it may not be safe for people with pre-existing conditions to attend religious services and asked them to stay home.
  • She added that there is scientific evidence that wearing a mask in indoors, including in stores, reduces the spread of respiratory droplets that may contain the virus.

Go deeper ... Study: Government-enforced coronavirus social distancing works

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White House coronavirus reports contradict public statements by Trump officials

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senior Trump administration officials privately warned several states that spikes in coronavirus cases put them in high-risk "red zones" while publicly downplaying the threat of the virus, according to documents released by a special House committee overseeing the coronavirus response.

Why it matters: Democrats have long called for a national plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, while the White House has offered only guidance and insisted that states take the lead.

Aug 31, 2020 - Health

CDC report on COVID deaths underlines virus' danger

Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles has been struggling to keep up with the demands of rising death rates during the pandemic. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A new Centers for Disease Control report shows 94% of people who died from COVID-19 in the U.S. had contributing health conditions.

Yes, but: Australian epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz noted in a blog post on Monday that the CDC finds COVID-19 was the underlying cause of 95% of all deaths related to the virus. Only in 5% of deaths has it been listed as a contributing cause.