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Dr. Birx: Coronavirus Vaccine ‘Not Going to Save Us from This Current Surge’

White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 17, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned on Sunday that while the coronavirus vaccine is “critical” to the future, it is “not going to save us from this current surge” in cases.

The doctor’s comments came during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, in which she explained that hospitals in the U.S., which she said typically run between 80 and 90 percent capacity in the fall and winter “just caring for our routine health,” are reaching a breaking point.

“So when you add 10, 15, 20 percent COVID-19 patients on top of that, that’s what puts them at the breaking point,” she said.

“I want to be very frank to the American people: The vaccine is critical, but it’s not going to save us from this current surge,” she added. “Only we can save us from this current surge, and we know precisely what to do.”

“So, if you have loved ones that you want to protect, you have to follow these guidelines now,” she said.

Birx expressed concern over Americans “parroting back” coronavirus disinformation, including that masks don’t work, that the country should be focused on achieving herd immunity, and that gatherings don’t result in super-spreading events.

“I think our job is to constantly say, ‘Those are myths, they are wrong and you can see the evidence base,’” she said. 

“Right now across the Sunbelt we have governors and mayors who have cases equivalent to what they had in the summer time yet aren’t putting in the same policies and mitigations that they put in the summer that they know changed the course of this pandemic across the south,” she said. “So it is frustrating because not only do we know what works, governors and mayors used those tools to stem the tide in the spring and the summer.”

“This fall-winter surge is combining everything that we saw in the spring with everything that we saw in the summer, plus the fall surge going into a winter surge,” she said. 

“This is not just the worst public health event, this is the worst event that this country will face,” she said. “Yet we know what behaviors spread the virus, and we know how to change those behaviors to stop spreading the virus.”

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States recorded 213,875 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and 2,254 virus-related deaths. The U.S. has recorded more than 14.5 million cases of the virus and at least 281,186 deaths.

Saturday was the fourth consecutive day that the U.S. reported more than 200,000 new daily COVID-19 cases.

Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar said Sunday “If things are on track, the advisory committee goes well, I believe we could see FDA authorization [of a coronavirus vaccine] within days.”

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