Dr. Birx visits New Jersey college; Dr. Fauci responds to President Trump's coronavirus comments

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- With President Donald Trump returning to the White House and insisting the public to "not be afraid of COVID," Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited Rowan University in New Jersey to emphasize that the steps recommended by public health officials can help bring down cases.

"I think we've been very clear in our public health messaging that the reason we're on a university campus," Birx said.

Birx visited the college campus Tuesday as part of a nationwide campus tour.

She said of the 18 universities she has visited in 30 states, Rowan "has the best signage we've seen." Rowan has had the most students living on campus this semester of any state university.

"They brought down the cases, because the students change their behavior," Birx said. "And really the university supported that behavior change for providing isolation and quarantine. And so, those public health messages are on change."

Birx questioned if "we can empower the community that we believe there's a message of how we get through this in a positive way."

"Absolutely, but we all have to work together on that communication and that transparency and using data to really understand where the virus is where it's increasing and what our response needs to be," she said.

Birx is expected to visit state colleges in New York State Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci responded to Trump's comments, saying he didn't want to contradict the president's actions and statements, but offered strong statements that they contradict his recommendations in an event with his alma mater Cornell University.
"I have a job to do," Fauci said. "And my personally contradicting the President of the United States publicly is not a good thing if I want to get my job done."

However, Fauci did insist, as he has said many of times, that there are some things that should be universally practiced, especially with the spread of 40,000 new infections a day.

"That is the universal wearing of masks, avoiding crowds, keeping a distance, doing things outdoors more than indoors and washing your hands frequently," he said. "That doesn't matter who you are. That's what you should be doing."

When asked about the mixed messaging, he appealed to people who trust his advice.

"For those who have faith in what I say and I think there are a lot of people who do that," Fauci said. "COVID-19 is a serious situation. It is a viral disease that has a broad range of manifestations, with the potential to make people very ill and kill them. The numbers speak for themselves. We have 210,000 deaths, and over 7 million infections in the United States, and over a million deaths globally. So, this is not a trivial disease, people in the United States should realize that it is not a trivial disease."

Fauci also said directly that COVID-19 is not the same as the flu, that even though it presents "flu-like symptoms" the seasonal influenza does not create the same potential for harm or pandemic conditions as the COVID-19 virus.

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