Aug. 2 (UPI) — White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic has become more widespread than it was when it first emerged earlier this year.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Birx said that the coronavirus has spread into more rural communities, rather than being contained in large metro areas, as cases have surged particularly in the southern and western states.
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas,” Birx said.
The United States leads all nations with 4,620,502 cases and 154,449 deaths, according to data collected by John’s Hopkins University.
Birx on Sunday also called on Americans to follow recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, including encouraging those living with individuals at high risk of the virus to do so at home.
“To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” she said. “If you’re in multi-generational 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 attributed the increased presence of the virus to “super spreading events” and said each stat needs a “dramatically tailored” approach to curbing the spread of the virus including implementing a “set of recommendations based on what we are seeing at the community level, what we are seeing relevant to the hospitals.”
State of the Union host Dana Bash also asked Birx if schools in states with a positivity rate of 5% or greater should remain closed or only offer distance learning.
Birx deferred to CDC guidelines on school reopenings but did encourage distance learning in areas with significant spread.
“If you have a high case load and active community spread, just like we are asking people not to go to bars, not to have household parties, not to create large spreading events, we are asking people to distance learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control,” she said.
Florida reported 7,104 new cases on Sunday, which is the lowest in one months, for a total of 487,132 — second highest in the nation– as well as 62 new deaths for a toll of 7,084, the seventh highest in the United States, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. On Friday, Florida set a state record with 257 newly reported deaths.
Multiple testing sites in South Florida, including state-run locations, closed on Friday as the area braced for the impacts of Tropical Storm Isaias. The sites are expected to open by Wednesday or earlier.
Arizona, another recent hot spot for the virus, reported 1,465 new cases Sunday for a total of 178,467, the eighth highest total in the United States, and 18 new deaths for the 13th highest death total at 3,765.
New York reported 531 new cases on Sunday for a total of 416,298 confirmed cases, fourth highest in the United States, and three new deaths for a confirmed total of 25,167, most in the nation.
New Jersey reported 331 new cases for a total of 182,350 — sixth highest in the nation — and six new confirmed deaths for the second highest death toll related to the virus at 183,350.
California has reported the highest case total in the nation, reporting a total of 500,130 and 9,224 deaths, which is in third place, as of Saturday. California set a record Saturday with 219 additional deaths.
Georgia has reported the fifth highest case total at 190,012 along with 3,825 deaths. Texas has the third highest case total in the country at 430,485 as of Saturday and the state’s Department of Health said it would not report new numbers on Sunday as it makes upgrades to its reporting system.