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White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Birx visits LSU, discusses next steps for La.
BATON ROUGE - Dr. Birx, who serves as the Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator for the White House, visited Baton Rouge Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 task force coordinator attended a news conference held by LSU in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, Sept. 23, alongside Governor John Bel Edwards.
So far, Dr. Birx says she has visited 28 states, working with governors, communities, students, and administrators to address the coronavirus crisis.
During the conference Wednesday, Dr. Birx said that Louisiana has made changes that have saved people's lives, specifically in the March/April time frame, in New Orleans, and in the post-summer Memorial Day surge.
"It was only two and a half months ago, about 80% of every parish in Louisiana had more than 10% tested positivity. It didn't matter if you were a rural parish or an urban parish. Extraordinary viral spread throughout the state, most of it beginning a-symptomatically," Dr. Birx said.
Dr. Birx explained that by monitoring the progress throughout the state of Louisiana, the data has proven that masks work.
"We just saw the wastewater data coming from this university, that two weeks after the mask mandate really resulted in dramatic decline in wastewater viral levels. We've learned that masks work, restrictions of indoor dining work, we've learned that closing bars at a time of high transmission definitely works, we found that physical distancing, but most importantly we've found that the engagement of the community works," Dr. Birx said.
Without respecting one another enough to physically distance, wear a mask, wash hands and make changes in daily behaviors to keep themselves and neighbors from getting COVID-19, Dr. Birx says Louisianians would not have made such progress.
Dr. Birx also shined a light on LSU's COVID response team, who she says spent their spring and summer researching and planning to bring students back to campus in the safest way possible.
"I just want to applaud the administration for really believing in their students, faculty, and staff to really bring people back and figure this out together with the students. Just like it depended on the people of Louisiana making those changes, it depends on every student at LSU to continue that behavioral modification and wearing their masks not just on campus but off-campus, and really restricitng their significant gatherings," Dr. Birx said.
The university discussed pods to limit interaction among students, having small groups that mingle to interact socially in a safe way.
Dr. Birx said the university has done a great job at prioritizing the health of the students to ensure a positive educational experience while being considerate of the health of the community.
During the conference, Dr. Birx was asked about the current restrictions in Louisiana. She said that following Labor Day and schools reopening, it is "extrordinarily important and prudent" to maintain restrictions and ensure mask usage and physical distancing.
"If we could have bars where everyone was physically distant and not taking their masks off, then that could be a discussion," Dr. Birx said.
With the south moving indoors during the warmer months, viral spread was heightened, but Dr. Birx explained that soon, the rest of the country will move indoors to be warm so these precautions must continue.
Dr. Birx said that as we go into cold and flu season, officials will continue to analyze data and extra precautions will be made to ensure the health and safety of the community.
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