TUCSON (KVOA) - Dr. Deborah Birx has been the coordinator of the White House COVID-19 task force since March.
Birx is touring colleges and universities that have opened amid the pandemic.
On Friday she landed in Arizona and met with University of Arizona President Robert Robbins, faculty, staff and students.
Almost 1,400 people at UA have tested positive for the virus since just after Labor Day, resulting in an 11 percent positivity rate.
Birx lauded UA’s robust testing plan.
“They really plan for a significant testing of their students regularly so they can find cases,” she said. “And, most important, they can find the asymptomatic cases.”
Birx pleaded with students who have recently been in groups without wearing masks.
“Please come and get tested because many of you will have what we call asymptomatic disease,” she said. “That means you’re so mild that you don’t even know you have symptoms.”
In March, at the outset of the pandemic in the United States, President Donald Trump is on the record in with veteran journalist Bob Woodward saying he wanted to play down the severity of the virus.
“I always wanted to play it down, I still like playing it down to not create a panic,” Mr. Trump said.
Birx emphasized that was not how the task force responded.
“There’s no task force member that has ever played down the virus,” Birx said. “From the very beginning, I didn’t come until March, but from the very beginning we’ve taken this extraordinarily seriously when we presented the data to the president and the vice president about where this virus was headed.”
As the United States approaches 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, Birx stressed we all have a responsibility as we head into to the fall.
“We right now as Americans need to do this, physically distancing but socially connected, wearing a mask and making sure we’re protecting those in our households that have pre-existing conditions no matter what age,” she said. “Because if we see rising rates again, we need to ensure we’ve done all of those things so that we don’t lose another 100,000 Americans.”