White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx talked with Face The Nation yesterday:
MARGARET BRENNAN: What capacity is there to backstop overwhelmed hospitals?
DEBORAH BIRX: Well, so that is, obviously, all of our concerns and that's why we're really asking states and mayors to really test for impact and consider vaccinating for impact. We know who's at highest risk, making sure that all of those individuals are tested. We know people may have made mistakes over the hospi-- over the Thanksgiving time period. So if you're young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to ten days later. But you need to assume that you're infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask. We're really asking families to even mask indoors if they chose to gather during Thanksgiving and others went across the country or even into the next state. And if you're over sixty-five or you have comorbidities and you gathered at Thanksgiving, if you develop any symptoms, you need to be tested immediately because we know that our therapeutics work best, both our antivirals and our monoclonal antibodies, work best very early in disease.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
DEBORAH BIRX: So we're really asking governors and mayors to make testing more available so we can prevent people having to be hospitalized. But, obviously, we're deeply worried. We're over ninety thousand inpatients right now. If we have a surge two weeks on top of that, even when we are starting to see some improvement, I appreciate that you have mayor--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
DEBORAH BIRX: --from Detroit on. They're really-- all these mayors are working to decrease their number of cases and getting to a plateau and now we could have a-- a fourth surge.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you asking-- I know you've been traveling the country. Are you asking governors to close the bars to keep schools open? Is that your advice?
DEBORAH BIRX: First, what we do know works is mask mandates, mask requirements. In states that did those or mayors or counties that did that, we can see a dir-- a really significant difference in not only cases, but hospitalizations and fatalities. And so starting with mask mandates and masking requirements absolutely key, followed by if you have high case numbers and you're seeing increased hospitalizations, the first thing you should do is close spaces where people cannot wear a mask.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
DEBORAH BIRX: And we know where that is. That's bars and indoor restaurants. Reduce capacity if needed. You may have to even close them. We have seen that that works. That's what Arizona did. And that's where Arizona got control. Arizona is in the position that they need to be really considering this again because their case numbers are up where they were in the summer.