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Dr. Birx Warns 'Silent Spread' Of Asymptomatic Coronavirus Cases Occurring In Northeast

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) -- Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said in Cambridge on Friday that she's seeing signs of a "silent spread" of the coronavirus in the northeast. She said it's critical that people in the region keep their guard up and take action on a personal level despite pandemic fatigue.

Massachusetts has seen a recent uptick in coronavirus cases. Forty communities are considered at "high risk" for coronavirus in the state.

"We do see some of those early signs that we saw across the south after Memorial Day, a sense that there's early, asymptomatic silent spread occurring in communities," Brix said.

She said the spread does not appear to be happening in public places like businesses and schools where precautions are mandated, but rather in smaller private gatherings. Birx said spending the upcoming holidays with friends and relatives at home may not be a safe activity in some communities, especially if social distancing and face mask practices are not followed.

"That's what we saw happen in the south. People let down their guard when they were with friends and family," Birx said. "They took off their masks. . . those becoming spreading events."

Birx spoke following a discussion with local university and college presidents and a meeting with researchers at the Broad Institute. She said communities should mimic the kind of testing colleges are doing - testing people who are willing every seven to 10 days.

"I wish that we could do that all the way across Massachusetts and across the United States, have this kind of regular testing where people were alerted early," Birx said.

Birx also met with Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday, stressing her message of taking action at an individual level to stop the spread.

"Now is the time to act in the northeast and that means we have to change our personal behaviors," she said.

On Monday, Birx will visit Plymouth State University, where her brother is the school's president.

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