The White House coronavirus response chief said the winter surge will be the worst event in US history, 'not just the worst public health event'

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  • Deborah Birx
    American physician and diplomat
deborah birx
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Washington. Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

Americans may be living through the darkest moment in the country's history, the White House's head of coronavirus response said.

Dr, Deborah Birx, a former Army physician and the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the winter surge of COVID-19 cases will the worst event in US history.

"This is not just the worst public health event," Birx said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "This is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side."

Public health experts are bracing for a potentially devastating winter COVID-19 surge as they expect families to gather for the holidays. The US added 1 million COVID-19 cases in the first five days of December, and the US just exceeded 100,000 current hospitalizations for the first time.

Birx, who wore a mask during her interview, urged Americans not to gather without face coverings indoors or in close outdoor settings. Birx said to correct community members who spread false claims, like "masks don't work."

False claims about public health guidance has spread on social media throughout the pandemic, and has extended to many lawmakers. President Donald Trump had downplayed the effectiveness of mask wearing on numerous occasions, and former White House coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas tweeted an incorrect statement back in August that masks don't "work."

Read more: There's light at the end of the COVID tunnel, I just don't see it yet.

Birx said during the interview she's "thrilled" for the vaccine, but she does not expect the most vulnerable Americans to have access to the shots until February. The US Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing data for two promising vaccines, developed by pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and biotech upstart Moderna. 

The US coronavirus vaccine task force hopes to get 100 million Americans access to vaccines within 100 days of an FDA green light. Healthcare workers and longterm care facility residents will likely get shots first. But The Washington Post reported states will likely receive 10% of vaccine doses originally promised by the Trump administration this year.

Birx's warning comes after millions of Americans traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday, bucking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to stay home. The CDC recently delivered similar guidance asking Americans not to travel for Christmas and New Years.

"We cannot go into the holiday season, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, with the same kind of attitude that 'those gathering's don't apply to me' - they apply to everybody, if you don't want to lose your grandparents, your aunt," Birx said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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