White House coronavirus response coordinator on new guidelines: "We can conquer this"

WH coronavirus response coordinator on guidelines

The coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen in the U.S. As the number of confirmed cases climbed over 4,300, the White House on Monday laid out new guidelines for Americans, urging everyone to avoid groups of 10 people or more. White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx spoke with "CBS Evening News" host Norah O'Donnell for her first interview since the outbreak began.

Are these guidelines getting us closer to what would amount to a national or nationwide quarantine?

So, these guidelines that we came out with today are very much based on models. So, we've looked very carefully at what actually works, what can you layer together to have the biggest impact. This is a virus. We can conquer this, but it will be strictly on the basis of our behaviors and what we do.

Why 15 days? If everyone follows these guidelines, could we stop it?  

We can level it out. This is a road map to prevent your grandmother from getting sick. This is a road map to prevent your grandmother from having to be hospitalized, or your grandfather. This is a road map of what everyone can do today to really protect the people who have been on cancer treatments, to really ensure that they can survive through this epidemic.

What happens if people don't follow these guidelines?

Well, we can see an example of that. You know, Italy was slow to introduce these guidelines. It's very much like Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said today, if you're not uncomfortable, if you're not really putting together and asking for sacrifice, you're gonna get behind the virus. And if you get behind a pandemic — this virus is about two to three times more contagious than flu — and so that's why we want everybody to do everything they can. 

We know that we have a large group of millennials between 25 and almost 40. They are really key to this. They're a social group. So that no more than 10 is very much focused on them to really say, even if you're home, don't have gatherings more than 10.

As you know, there are a large number of cases in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday, "I don't believe we're going to be able to flatten the curve enough." Do you agree with that?

We can flatten the curve even in New York, but the amount of behavioral change that it's gonna take — It's gonna take every American to sacrifice for one another. 

You see all the numbers. What's your biggest concern?

My biggest concern is that Americans everywhere will think they are OK, they are not at risk and they won't follow these guidelines. And what we know is, even if you perceive that you are not at risk, you put others at risk by not following these guidelines.