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Birx says West Virginia has had right response to coronavirus


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A key member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force said during a visit to West Virginia Wednesday that she’s impressed with how residents of the state appear to be putting each other first.

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator, took part in a round-table discussion with Gov. Jim Justice, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Second District Congressman Alex Mooney and members of Justice’s task force.

Dr. Deborah Birx

Birx said the West Virginia visit ended her latest 7-state tour of how governors and others are responding to the virus.

“We really wanted to hear how West Virginia got it right and continues to get it right,” Birx told reporters after the meeting. “I think what I’ve been convinced it that it’s really a partnership and teamwork to create self-sufficiency through innovation and it’s really been translating to every West Virginia and putting them first.”

Birx said the way Gov. Jim Justice’s mask mandate has helped lower the numbers was “heartening to hear.” She said she was also impressed with the state’s data collection efforts.

“It’s collecting data to be used to control the virus. It’s a seamless acquisition of data and then reporting it to the public,” Birx said.

Birx who has also visited 21 states in six weeks said she’s going to take the state’s school advisory color-coded map back for other governors to consider.

“It’s practicable. It is something every county and every county can do. It’s understandable and most importantly it’s implementable and that’s really what I got from this visit,” Birx said.

When asked about her thoughts about the state leaving positive cases in congregate settings out of the mapping numbers, Birx said that’s something she would have to research further.

Birx said West Virginia “represents exactly of what we want to see across the country. A commonsense approach and using local data to protect communities, together we can get through this until we have a vaccine.”

Clay Marsh

State Coronavirus Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said he was good to get a thumbs-up from Birx but she and the state task force recognize the fight against the virus isn’t over.

“She also understands that we are not finished with this event. That this is much different than anything we’ve seen before. She was appropriately cautious but she did feel we were doing many of the right things,” Marsh said.

Capito said she wanted to hear Birx’s thoughts on the six vaccines being worked on.

“She expressed cautious optimism that a vaccine would be developed in a timely amount of time,” Capito said.

Rep. Alex Mooney

Mooney said it was interesting to hear Birx’s thoughts on in-person instruction in schools.

“She does think we can be safe and go back to school, have that school to go back to school or have online learning and it’s important to do that in a safe way and have that option,” Mooney said.

Birx on other COVID-19 issues:

–on college campuses closing because of outbreaks

“Young people getting together, taking their masks off in close quarters is creating an event that we know and they know, because they understand biology, could create a spreading event. This virus is very transmissible They know what we know and they need to put it into practice.

–on adjusting to the new normal including wearing masks and social distancing

“I know that it’s a little bit of a personal sacrifice. Sometimes it’s hard and it’s particularly hard when you’re tired and have to remember what you’re supposed to do. I know we can because I see it happening here.”

–is there an end in sight

“Give us to December so we can reevaluate. At least we have found a pathway forward where we can still interact, maybe not as closely as we want but we’ll get to that place again.”