World Health Organization officials on Monday addressed remarks made by White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx Sunday that the Covid-19 epidemic was entering a new phase in the United States. Birx said that the country could still turn things around, and that the state-based planning and implementation seemed to be the right path.
“I think their intention wasn’t to create a sense of a new phase. I think they were trying to really – I hope I interpret what they’re doing correctly – but to really remind all states that the disease never went away, that there’s a huge potential for the disease to increase its speed and acceleration,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said during a press briefing in Geneva.
This acceleration was shown in the Southern states, and there are signs in other more central states that the acceleration may be occurring, Ryan said.
“I think they were taking a very prudent step in warning all states to really reexamine exactly where they were in the pandemic, to implement all of those comprehensive measures,” he said. “And I think those lead scientists are laying out exactly what they feel needs to happen in order to suppress this and getting this virus back to the box.”
From what he has seen from reports, Ryan said it is also prudent to be “stepping back some of the measure of reopening, and taking a step back and trying to reset in certain areas back to an earlier stage of virus control.”
Ryan said that the intensity of transmission in many countries means that it is going to take a huge effort in terms of personal and community behavior to suppress it.
“It is not our job to tell the US what it should be doing at sub-national level. The state-based planning and implementation guided by the national scientists seems to be the right path,” he said. “The difficulty for us all is sometimes we know the right path; the difficulty is choosing to walk it.”
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus response, said, “The United States can turn this around. … We know that, we have seen this in many, many countries that have applied this comprehensive approach."
Van Kerkhove appealed to everyone in the US to follow guidance.
“Stay at home if you’re asked to stay at home. Wear a mask if you’re asked to wear a mask,” she said. “Be part of this fight with us. And we know that you can turn it around.”