EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Deborah Birx, WH Coronavirus Response Coordinator, speaks to @ABC11_WTVD after 2nd in-person meeting w/ @NC_Governor & @SecMandyCohen to talk #vaccine, #testing & #therapies as hospitalizations rise. @ABC @ABCPolitics #covid19 #coronavirusNC pic.twitter.com/TMLwGPRYds— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) December 17, 2020
"It's a matter of vaccine and vigilance," Dr. Birx said in an exclusive interview. "We can do this for a matter of weeks while we get our population immunized. We don't need to have parties this year. We can have parties in July, we can have parties in August. We can have a party next year at this time. We are so close. We have this great beacon of hope but we need to get everybody to that place and to be vaccinated."
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Birx's second visit to North Carolina comes as state officials report a near-daily record of COVID19 patient hospitalizations. She says she made clear to the governor that North Carolina hospitals now have access to the same kind of therapeutics used to treat President Trump after his diagnosis.
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NEW: Dr Birx, in Raleigh, says #NorthCarolina #COVID19 patients in hospital now have access to #Regeneron, #remdesivir & #monoclonalantibodies. The key is early diagnosis & simply asking your doctor. @ABC @ABCPolitics @ABC11_WTVD #coronavirusNC #covid19 pic.twitter.com/RhjQ2SfD51— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) December 17, 2020
"Really ensuring every single person in North Carolina knows that if you have these comorbidities and you get infected that there are drugs specially made and available for you but you have to be diagnosed early and you've got to get those infusions," Dr. Birx said. "Those are those monoclonal antibodies made by Libby or Regeneron plus Remdesivir. We want every patient to know this treatment is available because in the end we're always our best advocates so we really want patients and their families to advocate with their doctors to get this monoclonal antibody. We know it's very effective if used early."
As for vaccines, Birx applauded North Carolina's first inoculations and the governor's plans for the next phase of vaccinating residents of long term care facilities and nursing homes, which she said will begin Dec. 28.
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"We're not asking you to (wear masks) for six more months or ten more months. We're saying protect those vulnerable individuals in your household now. We can hold on for a matter of weeks while we get the most vulnerable North Carolinians immunized."
On Dec. 13, the White House Coronavirus Task Force sent a nearly 300-page report to the country's 50 governors. The report, obtained by the ABC11 I-Team and ABC News, summarizes the data and trends for each state and offers lengthy recommendations.
North Carolina, according to the report, is identified as a "Red Zone" for cases, indicating 392 new cases per 100,000 residents - nearly triple the rate since Dr. Birx's last visit to Raleigh in September. That state ranks 35th in the country for cases and 31st for test positivity. The transmission rates and positivity rates are just below the national average.
MORE: As @DukeHealth, @UNC_Hospitals & @WakeMed begin vaccinations, Dr. Birx says @NC_Governor plan is #NorthCarolina will start vaccinating long term care residents & at nursing homes December 28th. @ABC @ABC11_WTVD #covid19 #coronavirusNC pic.twitter.com/wCbkIrAuqe— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) December 17, 2020
"We don't know is if there are long term consequences of mild or asymptomatic disease. We don't know 10 or 20 years from now. We don't want anyone getting this virus."
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Dr. Birx, who in the spring made frequent appearances with President Donald Trump, said she has not spoken to the President directly in at least one month and instead communicates with Vice President Mike Pence. She said she has twice met with President Elect Biden's Transition Team.
"I've been on the road since June. Visited 43 states, all hot zones at the time I was there. I've stayed at hotels, eaten at restaurants, eaten outdoors, been in retail places. I wore my mask. I was physically distant. I paid attention to what I was touching. I'm living proof you can be out, you can do your job, and you can stay COVID19 negative but it takes vigilance. That's why our message has always been protect, protect, protect. Mask, mask, mask, distance, distance, distance and hygiene."