US Testing Official: ‘I Don’t Think We Need to Shut Down’ Over COVID-19

July 13, 2020 Updated: July 13, 2020

Most of the United States does not need to shut down over COVID-19, a top testing official said Sunday.

“I don’t think we need to shut down, at least in most places around the country,” Adm. Brett Giroir said.

Modeling shows that shutting down bars, decreasing capacity in restaurants, and wearing masks when in public can bring down the rate of transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.

“If we do just those simple things, we can bring that R value—that transmissibility value—down to below one, which means it goes away. So I think we need to be very selective,” said Giroir, assistant secretary for Health and Human Services.

“Sure, if we shut everything down again, that would do it, but we don’t need to.”

Giroir was speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Adm. Brett Giroir testifies to Congress in Washington on July 2, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, threatened to close the state down again if people don’t wear masks, and other state leaders are also mulling partial or full shutdowns amid spikes in CCP virus cases and hospitalizations.

Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, is among the health experts advocating for reimposed lockdowns.

“The one thing we have to acknowledge is—we have to go back. No one wants to use the word lockdown … but the bottom line is, we’re going to really have to clamp down again,” he said during an appearance on CNN.

Harsh measures like lockdowns carry a cost, Giroir pointed out, including increases in substance abuse and mental and emotional health issues.

At the same time, screenings go down.

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A protective screen is seen at the entrance to a negative pressure ICU hospital room, where COVID-19 patients are treated, at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, Calif., on July 9, 2020. (Sandra Stojanovic/Reuters)

“Remember, there’s a tremendous health cost to shutting down,” he said. Mental, emotional, substance use, but also no cancer screenings, no vaccines, all those other things. So let’s do what we know really works.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told reporters last week that people in areas where case numbers are surging should stop going to bars, refrain from eating inside restaurants, avoid social gatherings in homes or other indoor places, and wear masks in public.

Americans in Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona should especially be cautious, Birx said.

Hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 are increasing in those states, and some are also seeing increases in positivity rates, or the percent of those tested testing positive.

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