JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx visited Jefferson City on Tuesday to meet with Missouri Governor Mike Parson for a roundtable discussion with community and state health officials. They are trying to develop a state-wide and nation-wide strategy to stop the virus.
The virus began to spread with young people as the nation transitioned from spring to summer, according to Dr. Birx.
From June and into July, the virus began to creep up from the southern states to northern states. This includes the spread into Missouri and Illinois.
“We wanted to understand what exactly the governors and mayors were doing, what the plans were, if additional mitigation was needed, and to really understand the precautions taken in schools and nursing homes and colleges and universities,” she said.
Brix said Missouri’s box-in strategy is really working to help stop an increase in deaths in the state. There is 45 to 50 percent of cases in three Missouri counties, according to Dr. Randall Williams. However, cases are rising in the state.
Dr. Birx came with a message for people in Missouri. She said that it does not matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, you need to wear a mask.
“Every public health official anywhere in the country will tell you it’s easier to have a statewide mask mandate,” she said. “But in this case, if you can get 100 percent of the retailers to require mask, as we saw in Branson and as we saw in some of the other communities, it sends a message to the community that masks are important.”
Social distancing is key to preventing the spread of the virus, Brix said. That means no backyard parties with your neighbors. Even being outdoors will not totally protect you. Close contact with anyone not wearing a mask is risky.
“So, all of us across Missouri, whether you’re in Kansas City or St. Louis, Springfield, Joplin, or Jefferson City, whether you’re in Branson or at the Lake of the Ozarks, our job in each and every community is to decrease the viral spread in a clear pathway forward together to control this virus,” she said.
Dr. Birx says her team is trying to discourage people from having large parties and gatherings. She says that these are places where the virus really spreads.
“Every person needs to really insure they are not infecting another and that means we can’t have these large parties because of the level of asymptotic spread,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a rural area or an urban area, they don’t know they are infected and they are spreading the virus to others.”
Everyone should try to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial if possible, Birx said. The studies need a diverse group of people to test the vaccine to make sure it works when or if it is released to the public.
“It’s very important that we have people from all different walks of life participate in those trials because when we complete those trials, we want to know it will work in a 70-year-old, we want to know it works in a farmer, we want to know if it works in someone in an inner city… We want to make sure it works for every American,” she said.
The doctor said anyone who was previously infected and has since recovered should consider donating blood plasma as well.
When asked if he was going to implement some of Dr. Birx’s recommendations, Parson said he Missourians to step up and take responsibility for their own health.
“Somebody has to take those guidelines, we do as Missourians and say, ‘Are we willing to do that?'” he said. “Are we willing to give up social gathering, are we willing to give up the social distancing, or are we going to continue to do that?”
The governor said the state’s healthcare system is handling the increase of COVID-19 cases across the state. He said all of Missouri’s high-positivity rate areas have mask mandates.