White House-appointed Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx visited the Lexington campus of the University of Kentucky on Monday as concerns grow over an escalating number of positive cases on campuses around the region.
Dr. Birx met with students, faculty and administrators on the UK campus, which has more than 400 active COVID-19 cases, 86 of those confirmed since late last week.
She says hearing from multiple colleges to learn about their coronavirus plans will help determine what measures keep students safe.
“We’re right now consolidating all of that information so that we can get that out to universities across the United States,” Birx said. “So they understand what it takes to open and stay open successfully, and what it takes to protect both the students and the communities where these universities are.”
Despite the increase in cases, Birx says universities should be able to continue holding in-person classes.
“The majority of infections that you’re seeing on college campuses are not happening on campus in the classroom,” she said. “Because we’ve now seen throughout the summer that these infections are brought into institutions, due to what happens off campus in communities.”
Birx says regardless of the strength of a university’s coronavirus plans students must follow protocols on and off campus.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported in a Monday briefing that 36 Kentucky colleges and universities have reported more than 2,000 active cases. An uptick of infections recently resulted in West Virginia University suspending in-person classes.
Reporters also asked about President Donald Trump’s recorded comments, recently released by reporter and author Bob Woodward, in which Trump talked about intentionally downplaying the severity of the virus.
Birx said she has “not downplayed the virus,” and that she has made her concerns plain in communication with the president.
“I have been very clear in my discussions with … the president of the level of severity of this virus, and I am not going to second-guess what the President has done or not done,” she said.