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Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, warned that some activities that Americans are engaging in across the country are potentially putting lives in danger as the coronavirus pandemic continues to plague the nation.
In a "Fox News Sunday" interview, Birx weighed in on recent incidents ranging from crowds flocking to Califonia beaches to the reopening of salons and spas, but came down particularly hard on Michigan protesters who stormed the state capitol in large numbers without wearing masks.
"It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives," Birx said. "So we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent."
Birx also noted that even activities that are now being permitted by certain state governors may not be in the public's best interest, and reminded people that the White House's guidelines are there to let people know how to stay safe. Several states have begun reopening, even though none have met the White House's recommended 14-day decline in cases before doing so.
"As states reopen we really want them to follow the gating criteria, but we also made it very clear to the American people this is what you need to continue to do to protect yourself," Birx said. "You need to continue to social distance, you need to continue to practice scrupulous handwashing, you need to know where your hands and where they have been and what they have touched, and make sure you don’t touch your face, and I think most importantly if you have any preexisting condition, through Phase One and Phase Two of any reopening we have asked you to continue to shelter in place.”
Some states, included Georgia, announced that businesses such as beauty salons and spas could reopen, even though President Trump advised against it. When asked if these activities would be safe if both sides wore masks, Birx said it could help, but it is still not a good idea.
"It’s safer, but we’ve made it clear that that is not a good Phase One activity and I think the president made that clear when he discussed the case in Georgia," she said.
Birx also commented on California beachgoers, who are no longer permitted to go to the shore after Gov. Gavin Newsom closed all beaches. Birx said going to the beach could be safe, but only with proper social distancing.
Providing some good news, Birx addressed President Trump's Operation Warp Speed, a plan to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready as early as January 2021, well ahead of the 12- to 18-month projection initially put foward. Birx explained that while a lot needs to be done between now and then, it remains in the realm of possibility.
"The way that it’s possible is if you bring forward five or six different classes of candidates, which the Operation Warp Speed has done. And so it’s not relying on a single vaccine platform, it’s relying on several different candidates that are made differently and act differently," Birx explained. She said a series of "compressed" trials would then be done "in an overlapping way," progressing when there is positive data but without pauses that are typically part of the process.
"And so on paper it’s possible," Birx said. "It’s whether we can execute and execute around the globe, because you also for Phase Three have to have active viral transmission in a community in order to study its efficacy."