Dr. Deborah Birx on the timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine, efforts to reopen America
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, joins Chris Wallace on ‘Fox News Sunday.’
As Americans celebrate Memorial Day weekend, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace that she is "very concerned" about people who may go out this weekend and not follow social distancing guidelines.
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"We know that it's important for people to socially interact, but we also know it's important that we have to have masks on if we're less than six feet and that we have to maintain that six feet distance," Birx said. "We know being outside does help, we know sun does help in killing the virus, but that doesn't change the fact that people need to be responsible and maintain that distance."
Beachgoers relax on the shore at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Mass., Friday, May 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Birx stressed that, even as restrictions are easing across the country, the coronavirus is still out there.
"It's very important for governors and communities to let people know where there is still high levels of the virus … and to really ensure that those with vulnerabilities are protected," Birx said.
While many Americans heading outdoors are abiding by the task force guidelines, a packed party at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri where revelers were not wearing masks went viral Sunday.
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In a White House briefing on Friday, President Trump deemed churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to be "essential places that provide essential services" that can reopen this weekend.
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
But Birx stressed that those with pre-existing conditions, who are the most vulnerable to the virus, should still avoid putting themselves at risk by staying home.
"Although it may be safe for some to go to churches and social distance, it may not be safe for those with pre-existing conditions," Birx said. "That's why in Phase 1 and Phase 2 we've asked for those individuals with vulnerabilities to really ensure that they are protected and sheltering in place while we open up America."
FILE – In this April 11, 2020, file photo, a person films pastor Nicolas Sanchez, center left, celebrating Easter Vigil Mass at St. Patrick Church in North Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
She said there is clear evidence that wearing a mask helps mitigate the spread of the virus and that people should do so out of respect for one another.
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"Out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance," Birx said. "It's really critically important."
President Donald Trump holds his protective face mask as he speaks while touring Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Ypsilanti, Mich. (AP Photo/Al
President Trump himself has taken heat for not wearing a mask in public, even as one of his valets and a staff member for Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for the coronavirus. Birx said Trump wore a mask for a period of time at a Ford plant last week.
"The president did wear a mask while he was less than six feet in an occasion where that was important…I’m not with him every day and every moment so I don't know if he can maintain social distance," Birx said. "I've asked everybody independently to really make sure that you're wearing a mask if you can't maintain the six feet. I'm assuming that in a majority of cases he's able to maintain that six feet distance."
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Birx's comments come as the United States has surpassed 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 96,000 deaths, according to the latest update by Johns Hopkins University.
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