Top White House Advisor Issues Stern COVID Warning to Rural Americans

Dr. Deborah Birx is recommending coronavirus precautions for people nationwide.

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At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., it was hard for many to imagine the outbreak being as widespread as it is now. While New York became the epicenter of the crisis, most states were spared—until things shifted. Over the past few months, COVID has surged in states across the nation, and it now shows signs of moving into new territory. With the expansion of the virus, the White House is sending a warning to rural Americans who may have thought they were safe from outbreaks: COVID could infect them, too.

In an Aug. 2 appearance on CNN's State of the Union, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, did not mince words about the need to take precautions even in less populated areas. "What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," she said. "To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus."

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Current guidance from the White House dictates that everyone should wear a mask and practice social distancing while in public—and Birx is stressing that these protective measures apply to rural Americans as much as to those in the big cities where coronavirus first spread. But in her recent CNN appearance, Birx went even further when she suggested that some people should also be wearing face masks at home.

"If you're in multigenerational households, and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you're positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities," Birx said.

moulton barn at the grand teton national park in wyoming
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The idea of wearing a face mask at home isn't exactly widespread yet, but it has been gaining traction, especially in multigenerational homes. Because of how easily COVID spreads within households, it makes sense that keeping a face covering on could slow the spread. Studies have confirmed that wearing a mask at home can mitigate COVID transmission among family members.

Birx stressed that the focus of containing COVID should not be on super-spreader individuals, but on super-spreader events, and these can take place in any community, whether within a densely populated city or a small town. It's the latter that the White House now seems focused on, if only because rural Americans may not be as accustomed to coronavirus precautions as those who have been living in hotspots for months now.

"This epidemic right now is different and it's more widespread and it's both rural and urban," Birx said. "We definitely need to take more precautions." And for more on where COVID is rising, This State Is About to Have the Single Worst Outbreak in the Country.

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