Dr. Deborah Birx: High-Risk Coronavirus Testing Showing High Asymptomatic Spread

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, April 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said at the White House on Tuesday that recent sentinel surveillance coronavirus testing in high-risk areas showed remarkably high levels of the asymptomatic spread of the virus.

“We actually want to find an outbreak before it occurs, and we really believe there’s a lot of asymptomatic spread,” Birx told reporters, including Breitbart News, during a meeting with the Coronavirus Task Force.

Sentinel surveillance, Birx said, was universal preemptive testing in high-risk groups of people in meat plants, prisons, nursing homes, and workers in group housing. That differs from testing only symptomatic patients and tracking down possible infections by contact tracing.

“We test 100 percent, or we try to test 100 percent. That’s where we’re finding how prevalent asymptotic or very mild disease in the outbreaks where people wouldn’t have noticed that they were ill,” she said.

Dr. Birk said there are many asymptomatic elderly even in nursing homes.

“There’s a lot of asymptomatic elderly because of their lack of fever,” she said.

She said the task force noted that the number of asymptomatic cases were “very high” but wants to investigate the relevance of age before releasing the testing details.

“I don’t want to give you a number yet until we work it out by age because we think it’s inversely related,” she said. “It’s a lot.”


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