WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says recent surges in cases in the southern U.S. could make their way north.
Birx told NBC’s “Today” show: “We have to change our behavior now before this virus completely moves back up through the north.”
The densely packed New York metropolitan area had been the hardest-hit section of the country, but the daily number of cases and deaths declined after a strict lockdown. The number of cases has been growing in southern states, including South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, where hospital officials say they desperately need medication to treat the patients filling up beds.
Birx says it’s difficult for people to understand “how deeply you have to clamp down” with social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing and avoiding crowds to stem the spread of the deadly virus. Birx says that’s why health professionals have “called out the next set of cities” where they see early warning signs. If those cities make changes now, they “won’t become a Phoenix.”
In a stretch of 10 days last month, Arizona health officials reported on seven occasions more than 3,000 daily cases.
Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, has more than 100,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,600 deaths.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.