On Sunday, Trump administration Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with host Chuck Todd to provide updates on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Todd began by asking Birx about the near future, given that deaths related to COVID-19 have been increasing rapidly: “It took from February 29th to March 17th to get to 100 deaths. It took another nine days to get to 1,000 deaths. Sadly, it took 72 hours to get to 2,000 deaths … where are we today and where is this headed in the next few weeks?”
Well, this is the way pandemics work, and that’s why we all are deeply concerned and why we’ve been raising the alert in all metro areas and in all states. No state, no metro area will be spared – and the sooner we react, and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they’ve put in full mitigation, at the same time understanding exactly what their hospitals need, then we’ll be able to move forward together and protect the most Americans.
Birx then spoke about a website from University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that charts what could happen as COVID-19 burns through the United States, and Todd asked what the model is telling Birx.
Birx said that there are two things that need to be looked at – one being “full capacity for diagnosis,” and the other being “surveillance.”
“So we’re looking across the United States for counties that do have lower case numbers right now to see what we can do … in order to really put into place full surveillance, full contact tracing, and full diagnostic capacity to ensure that cases are found and we contact trace while the metros and other areas go through clearly important mitigation efforts to spare as many American lives as possible,” Birx stated.
Todd continued, asking Dr. Birx about what the team is learning from New York, which has become the epicenter in the United States for the illness.
Birx replied that the state is being studied closely, specifically as it relates to “hospital needs,” as well as “better testing, how to keep less sick people away from the hospital and being tested elsewhere,” and “looking at how to keep those hospitals stocked.”
Todd pressed Birx about the role the federal government is playing in supplying states with the materials they need, and the doctor responded, saying that “every single governor and every single mayor” is being asked “to prepare like New York is preparing now,” so they develop the flexibility to move necessary equipment “around the state based on need.”
“We know this epidemic moves in waves. Each city will have its own epidemic curve, and so we can move between states, we can move within states to meet the needs of everyone,” Birx added.
Todd asked if “the federal government” should be taking over “the procurement and the distribution of things going forward,” further wondering “who should be trying to acquire new equipment: states or the federal government?”
Well, I think the federal government right now is working very hard on looking at where all the ventilators are and where production can be – but we need states at the same time to look where all of their ventilators are, including outpatient surgical centers, which is a really important place to be looking because you get staff plus ventilator…
“So both of those pieces need to come together. The government looking to increase procurements, and states looking for every single option that they have,” Birx concluded.
COVID-19, which originated in China’s Hubei province, has infected nearly 713,000 people worldwide, and led to more than 33,590 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) Global Cases map. 148,995 people have recovered.
In New York City, which is a national hotspot for the virus, there have been more than 32,300 confirmed cases, and 678 deaths as of publication.