By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, met with Gov. Kay Ivey and State Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Wednesday to discuss Alabama’s work on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Ivey’s office, Birx said making sure everyone wears masks while in public is a critical step in keeping businesses open and running safely and Ivey’s decision to issue a statewide mask order was “brilliant.”
That mask order goes into effect at 5 p.m. today and lasts till the end of July. Ivey continued to emphasize the need for personal responsibility on Wednesday but said the worsening numbers for COVID-19 cases in the state moved her to put the order in place.
It was a close-door meeting but Ivey press secretary Gina Maiola said that the three discussed a variety of topics related to the pandemic including testing, the reopening of schools and churches and Remdesivir, a drug shown to reduce the recovery time for those with COVID-19.
Birx strongly emphasized how now is a critical time for the South to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Maiola said in a press release.
Many southern states have seen drastic increases in COVID-19 cases this month.
Alabama recorded more than 18,0000 new cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks and on Tuesday reported 40 new deaths, which is the highest one-day death count since the pandemic began. Alabama’s rate for positive tests has increased from the Fourth of July week from 14% to now around 16-17%, Harris said on Wednesday.
Birx said she is specifically worried about Alabama and its high rates of cases statewide, which is why she decided to visit Alabama in person, according to Ivey’s office.
Birx also had a round table discussion in Montgomery with state health and education officials, lawmakers and members of the business and religious communities.