Dr. Birx: Wisconsin’s coronavirus trends are ‘deeply concerning’

Dr. Birx: Wisconsin’s coronavirus trends are ‘deeply concerning’

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – During a visit to the state Capitol, Dr. Deborah Birx urged the continued use of coronavirus mitigation tools like mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing to help slow the spread of the virus, but also advocated for new strategies to address the current surge in cases.

Dr. Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, met with state, health and UW System leaders at the Capitol. Birx noted the state is headed in the wrong direction in its fight against coronavirus and it is worse off than when she first visited the state in late August.

“The trajectory, the trendlines of admissions to your hospitals and the rate of increase of new admissions is deeply concerning,” Birx told reporters at a news conference in the Senate parlor of the Capitol.

Birx’s visit comes as Wisconsin experiences its worst stretch of the pandemic, hitting multiple single-day records in cases, hospitalizations and deaths during the month of October.

During her meetings at the Capitol, Birx said the state can learn from the initial surge from college campuses that occurred in late August and early September. Specifically, with how campuses were able to swiftly use mitigation efforts like testing and contact tracing to control outbreaks. Birx said the state could benefit from proactive surveillance testing among groups like educators, first responders and students.

“Adding on testing that’s focused at the community level doing surveillance proactively,” Dr. Birx said. “To find the individuals in this room and every room in Wisconsin that are silently infected with this virus.”

On top of that, Birx said family gatherings have contributed greatly to the current surge particularly because people let down their guards around people they know, despite following mask wearing and social distancing in public. Birx said if people are not living with family members like parents and grandparents, they should take precautions like mask wearing and social distancing, even indoors, as young people who are asymptomatic may unknowingly transmit the virus.

“I think we have the tools, it’s whether we can consistently use them, and that’s hard on all of us,” Birx said. “I think we have to admit it’s been a long time and people are asking us to do more and more. First we’re saying you have to use it in public spaces and now you’re hearing me say we have to protect grandma in the house. So yes, we’re asking you to do more, we’re asking you to bridge with these behaviors.”

Birx’s visit also comes ahead of President Donald Trump’s rally in Waukesha on Saturday. Birx was also asked if masks should be required, something that is voluntary at the president’s rally and an issue that is currently being fought in courts between Governor Tony Evers and conservatives.

Birx did not say directly that masks should be required but said she strongly supports them and supports governors who have put mask mandates in place, such as Governor Evers in Wisconsin.

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