White House expert: Virginia should restrict bars, push for outdoor dining, limit gatherings to 10

White House expert: Virginia should restrict bars, push for outdoor dining, limit gatherings to 10
The US's Coronavirus Response Coordinator capped a 5-day trip in Virginia, after visiting other states that have seen a rise in coronavirus cases. (Source: wwbt/nbc12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force said Virginia should restrict bars, push for more outdoor dining and limit the size of social gatherings.

Dr. Deborah Birx made the recommendations during her stop in Richmond, capping a five-day trip to other Southern states seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“What we’re seeing across the South right now is both rural infections as well as small metros, and major metros, simultaneously,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the U.S.‘s Coronavirus Response Coordinator.

Dr. Birx met with Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday morning to offer recommendations to help mitigate the spread. Her recommendations for the governor are familiar: Mask wearing for everyone in public, restricting bars and pushing for outdoor more dining, along with limiting social groups to 10 or less.

She said the recommendations have proven to be effective elsewhere:

”We’re beginning to see significant improvement in Arizona and Texas, and they had a very serious outbreak. We do start to see some improvement in California and in most of Florida, except Miami currently, although they seem to be stabilizing,” Birx said.

The doctor did express concerns with cities on the eastern part of the Commonwealth, where testing positivity rates circle around 10%, higher than the state’s rate of around 7%.

“What always worries me is that there’s people that have gone to the Virginia Beach area or the Portsmouth area or the Hampton area, and unknowingly bring that virus back,” Dr. Birx said.

She also addressed testing turnaround times with commercial labs, saying that some solutions they discussed with labs include adding more manpower within those labs, but also the Federal government tapping universities to use their own equipment for testing.

“They can bring back their laboratory technicians, they can create lab-developed tests as New York and The Broad [Institute] has done, and then they can greatly increase the testing in both those colleges and universities for the students, as well as the community in their region,” Birx said.

Dr. Birx did say that even though the recommendations did come from the White House, ultimately, it would be up to each state to enact those guidelines.

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