MISSOULA, Mont. — In a one-one-one interview with NBC Montana, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said she’s deeply concerned about Montana heading into the winter months.
“We can’t gather even as families or neighbors right now as long as this virus is spreading, because you cannot tell who has the virus or not,” Birx told NBC Montana’s Maritsa Georgiou. “If you have been together and had your mask off, please go and get tested. We have to stop the spread of this virus in Montana. It is increasing, it’s going into the tribal nations.”
We asked Birx more about Yellowstone County and if she sees a reason its numbers are so much higher.
“Yellowstone was the first county to have evidence of community spread throughout the summer. It’s continued unrelenting,” she said. “That tells me you’re not stopping the spread where the community spread is happening.”
Birx said now is a the time for a call to action for every Montanan to take this seriously.
“There’s a lot of vulnerable people in the community, and we need as individuals -- Democrats, Republicans or independents, and I know a lot of Montanans are independent people -- but we know what to do. And together we can bridge the time that we need to bridge over the next several months until we get a vaccine.”
Birx also said we need to be wearing masks indoors and outdoors. She says there's evidence that it works and cited wastewater studies done in Louisiana.
"Within two weeks of the mask mandate, their wastewater COVID levels dropped dramatically," Birx said. "This is a clear evidence base. We know what has to be done. Together we can do that as we bridge forward to an effective vaccine."
We asked Birx if she’s found a successful way to break through the politicization of this topic and get through to people who call the virus a hoax.
“This is not a hoax, it’s a real virus. And it spans from really little evidence of disease in infection to very severe disease. I think the people that don’t understand that haven’t seen the severity of disease hit their family,” Birx said. “I’m grateful they haven’t had that experience, but believe me, there are many Americans mourning right now over those 200,000-plus people who have died in their family. Don’t bring this back to your family, we know how to stop the spread.”
On a vaccine, Birx says there are three different vaccines in large clinical phase three trials right now, which will send data into the Data and Safety Monitoring Board. She says nobody in the federal government will see that data, and if the independent recommendation to the company shows evidence of a safe and efficacious vaccine, they will forward it to the FDA for approval. She thanked the nearly 100,000 Americans who have volunteered to test the vaccine.
“Like we wear a mask for others, we need to get the vaccine to protect others so we can have true herd immunity that comes with vaccination,” Birx said.