Dr. Birx shares 'deep concern for Minnesotans' as winter nears, community spread increases

Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus task Force, gives a briefing at Rochester Community and Technical College. (FOX 9)

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx met with state and local health leaders in Rochester, Minnesota on Saturday, providing a warning for the months ahead.

“Right now Minnesota ranks 19th in the country for cases, but it’s rising and it’s rising at a rate that we hadn’t seen through the summer or in the spring,” said Birx. “We have deep concern about Minnesotans at this moment.”

She says that’s partly due to an early blast of winter, forcing more people indoors.

“We can see the increase in cases coming and continuing unrelentingly unless together as a community of individuals we do things we know will stop the spread of this virus,” said Birx.

She says that community spread is both a rural and urban issue. During Saturday’s meeting with local officials, she discussed response strategies.

“How we would work together to really find that 'front end of the epidemic' - the end where people are still asymptomatic and spreading the virus and finding those individuals and stopping the spread there,” said Birx.

Minnesota has expanded testing with new semi-permanent saliva test sites opening throughout the state. Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcom says the goal now is to increase surveillance testing to better find asymptomatic cases.

“The new idea here is to identify some populations of people for regular routine testing without regard for where they might or not been exposed,” said Malcolm.

While many may be battling COVID fatigue, Birx says it will take cooperation to help minimize the spread.

“What we’re asking people is to empower their communities by coming forward even when you don’t have symptoms to get tested,” she said.

Ultimately, Birx says a vaccine will bring the end of the pandemic. Trials are still underway.