Birx clarifies beach comments: 'If you can't social distance and you're outside, you must wear a mask'

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, on Sunday clarified her comments about going to the beach over Memorial Day weekend, saying those who can't practice social distancing outside need to wear a mask. 

Last week, during a White House press briefing, Birx said Americans could continue their Memorial Day weekend activities as long as they were careful and practiced social distancing. 

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"You can go out. You can be outside. You can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls. You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart. But remember that that is your space, and that's a space that you need to protect and ensure that you're social distanced for others," she said.

But photos from this weekend showed a lack of social distancing in crowds at beaches and parks.

Martha Raddatz, host of ABC’s “This Week,” asked Birx if she thought opening these spaces to the public was the right call.

“I think it’s our job as public health officials every day to be informing the public of what puts them at risk,” Birx said. “And we’ve made it clear that there’s asymptomatic spread.”

“So we really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical,” she said. “And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask.”

Birx added that masks are “critical to protect” people and said officials need to translate what they learned about the virus into “real changed behavior ... so we can continue to drive down the number of cases.”

Raddatz pushed back, saying that “you’re not seeing” social distancing and changed behavior at these beaches.

“I think that’s our job to continue to communicate,” Birx responded, adding that “better, continuous communication” on the importance of social distancing is needed through "different venues."

She also said those with underlying health conditions are advised to shelter in place during the first two phases of reopening.