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Birx talks up masks; praises UW system’s coronavirus plan

August 31, 2020 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx talked up the value of masks during a visit on Monday to Wisconsin and praised the University of Wisconsin system’s plans for protecting students.

Birx was in Madison to talk to state and health officials, including Tommy Thompson, the University of Wisconsin System president whom she knows from his time as health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush.

“I think he has taken a very serious and public-health approach to this,” Birx told reporters. “He has a plan for surveillance testing, he has a plan for surge testing ... and I think equally importantly, he has a plan for caring for students who become positive.”

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Birx suggested the strategy could help the UW system avoid the clusters of cases other colleges have experienced when students arrived on campus.

And she said evidence shows that masks helped blunt a coronavirus surge in southern states this summer.

“These Southern governors and leaders put in mask mandates, increased social distancing, decreased occupancy in restaurants and now just four weeks later, they’ve dramatically decreased their number of cases.” she said.

Birx made her comments a week after the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued to overturn Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ mask order.