More widespread testing and adherence to COVID-19 safety measures, such as masking and distancing, are necessary to prevent a resurgence in cases in Northeastern states, said Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, after a roundtable discussion with Penn State leaders, students and local officials in State College Wednesday.
Birx told reporters after the roundtable, which was closed to the media, that the university and the local community have successfully created messaging around the importance of masks, physical distancing and personal hygiene. She commended college students who have made sacrifices in their personal lives to keep the larger community safe.
“I think as American people, we should be willing to make those same sacrifices going into the fall,” Birx said. “To ensure that we're not gathering together in either public or private spaces, where we know that those small dinner parties or those small birthday parties do create the opportunity for spreading events.”
Birx warned about a “silent spread,” which she said there are early warning signs of in Northeastern states.
“People are very careful in public spaces, but not always [at] the same level of intensity of behavioral change in private spaces,” she said.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said, “We have seen more than 1,000 cases a day for the past nine days, which shows that we are at the start of a fall resurgence of COVID-19.”.
The state has begun distributing 250,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits Wednesday, according to the Wolf administration. The kits, provided by the federal government, will first go to Centre, Bradford, Lebanon, Montour, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Snyder counties “because of the recent high disease incidence rate in these areas.”
Birx said she supports local mandates on masks and other safety measures because people cannot let their guard down.
“We all need reminders. We're not perfect. We don't remember everything every day. But retailers who have those signs and remind us when we go in, that's constant reinforcement to that behavior change that we're all trying to make for each other and for our families and for our communities,” she said.