Amid Rush to Reopen, Birx Says Social Distancing Will Continue Through Summer

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At a White House briefing room and in a radio interview last week, Vice President Mike Pence pushed the message that the coronavirus epidemic would be mostly over by “early summer.”

“If we continue these mitigation efforts in the days ahead, as states implement their policies—including phased reopening that will preserve those gains—we do believe by early summer we could be in a much better place as a nation, with much of this coronavirus epidemic behind us,” Pence said Thursday at the president’s daily coronavirus briefing. 

But that doesn’t mean social distancing is going away anytime soon, even though some states have already decided to begin reopening. On Sunday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that social distancing guidelines will continue through the summer.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, Birx was asked about a statement by Pence Friday that by Memorial Day, COVID-19 would be “largely…behind us.” “This Memorial Day? 2020? Is that realistic?” host Chuck Todd asked.

In response, Birx said that data from Louisiana and Detroit, where COVID-19 cases may have already peaked, “gives us great hope” for hard-hit areas like New York City, possibly explaining the vice president’s comments. But, she added, “social distancing will be with us through the summer, to really ensure that we protect one another.”

It’s not clear whether Birx’s comments will mean all that much. Just over a week ago, Trump was screaming on Twitter to “LIBERATE” states from public health orders. With nail salons and barber shops already open in Georgia and Oklahoma, and Colorado, Minnesota, and Montana planning to ease up on restrictions this week, the White House has so far allowed governors to choose when and how to lift social distancing guidelines.  

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