White House coronavirus task force member applauds Louisiana’s COVID-19 restrictions

Dr. Deborah Birx praises La. for handling LSU COVID spread
White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx meets with Gov. Edwards and others at LSU.
White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx meets with Gov. Edwards and others at LSU. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - She is a familiar face at White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings and on Wednesday (Sept. 23) Dr. Deborah Birx made a stop in Louisiana where she praised steps the state has taken to combat the dangerous virus.

“Really we’ve learned from Louisiana that masks work,” Birx said.

She credits actions Gov. John Bel Edwards has taken to reduce transmission of COVID-19 with saving lives in the state.

“I think everyone in Louisiana should know that Louisiana made changes that saved people’s lives,” Birx said.

Birx noted the progress being made in the state in driving down COVID-positivity numbers during a stop at Louisiana State University. There she met with higher education leaders from around the state as well as some students.

“And we talked about the importance of increasing testing on campus to really understand the breadth, and depth of the viral spread and I think what they’re doing with wastewater now and being able to see where there could potentially be hotspots and going in there in testing is really going to be key," Birx said.

She said restrictions on restaurants and bars in the state are proving their worth.

“We learned that restrictions of indoor dining work. We’ve learned that closing bars at a time of high transmission definitely works," Birx stated.

Restrictions on bars have resulted in criticism of the governor by some. Birx was asked if the state’s restrictions on bars need to be changed.

“Going from 80 percent parishes above 10 percent to now one parish above 10 percent showed us that this mitigation works,” Birx said. “And so, I think now is not the time to really loosen restrictions.”

Birx’s visit to the state comes just days before the Republican-controlled Louisiana Legislature begins another special session. Some Republicans critical of the COVID-restrictions implemented by Edwards hope to roll back some of the governor’s emergency authorization authority.

Edwards told news reporters that his actions are in line with White House guidelines.

“She’s running the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force. She knows the data in Louisiana down to the parish level, she’s been making recommendations for weeks and weeks and weeks. We talk by phone frequently and the recommendations that she’s made have been by-and-large what we’ve done, and they have proven successful,” Edwards said.

And Edwards said Louisiana should not regress in terms of taking the pandemic seriously.

“I would hope that the folks around Louisiana were paying attention to her words and I certainly hope that’s not lost on the legislators because we all have a common interest in promoting public health and if you move away from the things that have worked then you jeopardize public health,” he said.

And Birx says valuable lessons were also learned about how temperatures in the South affect behavior and the ultimate spread of the virus. Lessons that she said are important for the rest of the country.

“So, the South moved indoors because it got too hot and you can see what happened with viral spread. Soon the rest of the country will move indoors to be warm and so we really need to ensure that these precautions that are really being utilized here continue until we see how the Labor Day situation goes, how the schools and universities coming back, and the case structure,” Birx said.

She also said the task force will pay attention to what happens after 25,000 people are allowed to attend LSU’s game on Saturday.

“Of course, it’s also outside and we know with airflow that is also quite important and so we’ll be following this very closely, that’s how we learn; we learn from controlled events from which we have clear data," Birx said.

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