The White House's adviser on COVID-19 paid a visit to Minnesota amid the state's "worrisome" trend of rising positivity rates in several counties, including in rural Minnesota.
After making several stops in Minnesota on Sunday to talk to local leaders, state officials and Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease experts, Dr. Deborah Birx spoke to reporters in St. Paul, where she stressed the importance of following health guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding crowds.
Birx said Minnesota now has nine counties that have a positivity rate of more than 10% and cases statewide rose 16% over the last week, noting "that trend is worrisome this late into the summer."
While rising cases have been noted in both urban and rural settings, Birx did note that compliance with mitigation efforts seems to be better in cities.
"Throughout many of the places we have stopped in Minnesota, there is a real attention to these mitigation efforts in the urban areas," she says. "But there does need to be improvement out in the rural areas."
As of Sunday, Minnesota has had 75,189 positive cases of COVID-19 and 1,816 deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Birx urged Minnesotans to not wait until a vaccine to do the right thing, "if you do the right thing today, we go into the fall with much fewer cases."
"I'm very convinced right now that we can stop community spread by wearing masks, socially distancing and avoiding crowds," she said, noting that crowds don't mean a concert, "crowds are a backyard barbecue with 25 people without masks."
“Whether it’s a wedding, whether it’s a funeral, whether it’s a birthday party, whether it’s just a Sunday afternoon dinner where we brought together our family from across the city and we’re sitting in the backyard, if you don’t have a mask on and someone is within six feet, virus spreading can and will occur if someone is infected,” she said.
Being careful and following public health guidelines over the next 4-6 weeks will bring down cases, Birx said, noting that when there's a lower number of cases it is easier to contact trace and pinpoint asymptomatic spread to contain the virus.
Minnesota is the 23rd state Birx has visited since the pandemic began.