Health official says country in new phase of pandemic, suggests masks for some at home

Posted at 11:13 PM, Aug 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-03 07:58:57-04

TAMPA, Fla.— Is the country in a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic? A top U.S. health official thinks so.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx believes what the country is seeing now is different from what we experienced in March and April. Dr. Birx explained the health crisis is widespread in both urban and rural areas.

“To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” said Dr. Birx in an interview on CNN. “And that's why we keep saying no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces.”

Dr. Birx went on to say families living in multi-generational households should consider wearing a mask at home if there’s an outbreak in their area.

“I hate to be a Debbie downer, but the recommendation that she’s putting out there is really coming from a lot of the studies in Italy and out of China in the initial stages of the outbreak,” said USF Health’s Dr. Thomas Unnasch.

Dr. Unnasch shared some studies have looked at secondary infections in the household, or if an infected person is living with others and what were the chances someone else living there gets infected, too. He says the results ranged anywhere from 13 to 30 percent.

“If you take a regular person just sort of walking around on the street and assigning them a risk of getting infected of one, if you were living with somebody who was infected, the risk was six times greater than that, and 27 times greater that than if you were a spouse of somebody who was infected,” said Dr. Unnasch. “Wearing a mask dropped that by about 80 percent.”

Dr. Unnasch also says studies have shown transmission often happening in the pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic stages. He explained wearing a mask inside your home may be worth considering, especially if you’re living with someone with certain, underlying health conditions.

“The one thing that we can really do that’s essential for reducing the spread of this virus is to make sure you wear your masks and wear the mask as much as you possibly can,” said Dr. Unnasch.