SPONSORED:

Birx: Testing must be performed 'down to the community' for accurate reopening timeline

Birx: Testing must be performed 'down to the community' for accurate reopening timeline
© Getty

Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House's coronavirus response, said Sunday that coronavirus testing must be focused more on individual communities as those communities and their states develop plans for reopening.

“We’re a series of independent curves … the New York metro area had the most explosive experience with the virus, and then we look to Seattle, which has been containing the virus and contact tracing and really finding a series of small outbreaks,” Birx said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.  “Having that first nursing home outbreak helped them really put in public health measures that has kept their curves very low.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“Each of these [regional] epidemics will have a different testing need and that’s what we’re calculating now,” she added. “If you give Americans knowledge they will translate that into protective actions. We have to really get them information in a much more granular way than a national way or a state way. It needs to be down to the community.”

In some areas, she added, “when the curves are low it’s much more difficult to predict when the curves are going to fully decline.”

A community monitoring plan, Birx added, would involve carefully tracking emergency room visits, widespread testing and tailoring local health systems’ infrastructure for understanding influenza-like illnesses to understanding COVID-like illnesses, particularly in the flu off-season.

“Testing needs to be focused where you start to see early evidence,” she added. “If you test and overtest in areas where there isn’t virus you can end up with false positives and false negatives. Each of these epidemics will have a different testing need and that’s what we’re calculating now.”

Host Margaret Brennan also asked Birx if she had seen any evidence that the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, was the result of a “laboratory accident.”

“Any time we have a new virus it’s important to figure out its origins and I think we’re still a long way from figuring it out,” Birx responded. “It took us decades to figure out HIV and Ebola … we know it originated in china, we just don’t know specifically how and where. I don’t have any evidence that it was a laboratory accident, I also don’t know precisely where it originated.”