COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - TThe Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, was in Columbia on Thursday.
She spoke with University of South Carolina leadership, state and local officials, and local health care professionals at a roundtable discussion.
After that, she addressed the public, praising South Carolina’s progress with mask-wearing and social distancing since she last visited the state nine weeks ago. She also called for the continuation of widespread testing.
“If you’ve been on vacation, if you’ve been to a hotspot, if you’ve gone to a party in the neighborhood and took your mask off and were not socially distanced, you really need to go and get tested,” Birx said.
Birx said that she is impressed by the leadership of UofSC in coming up with a plan to bring students back to campus safely with adequate quarantining space and testing capabilities.
“I think that linking of testing with isolation, quarantine and care, and really understanding what that care part means for providing that space, but also the food and support so that students can successfully quarantine and isolate and move through this virus together,” Birx said.
Birx said that she believes that saliva-based testing is the way forward for wide-spread testing, saying that data shows the testing to be of comparable accuracy to the nasal swabs.
“We have asked not only universities to go saliva-based testing but even in routine healthcare provision to move to saliva-based testing,” Birx said.
Birx said that there’s no way of knowing the timeline for a vaccine. Until then, it’s important for community members to continue following safety procedures and getting tested.
“When we see this level of ongoing infection and fatality that, even though it’s down and down significantly, it’s still ongoing,” Dr. Birx said, “I want a vaccine that’s safe and effective as fast as possible.”
UofSC president Bob Caslen was happy to welcome Birx. He sent the following statement:
“I was honored to host Dr. Deborah Birx, an internationally respected and acclaimed physician, diplomat and public health leader. Her visit today reinforced our view that our COVID plans are robust, flexible and focused on the right outcomes. As I’ve said before, we remain committed to testing as much as we can in order to identify all our positive cases, take care of them, and get them back into the classroom as soon as possible. This supports our commitment to our students, faculty and staff. As we ramp up our saliva testing to previous levels, we appreciate DHEC and Nephron’s support in getting additional lab workers certified and providing additional testing capabilities.”