The White House’s top adviser on COVID-19 has a message for the people of North Dakota: Wear a mask, to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Dr. Deborah Birx was in Bismarck on Monday to meet with community, tribal and state health officials. She said she is concerned about North Dakota’s increase in case numbers and deaths from the virus. And she said she's concerned that with the colder weather, more people will be indoors, and that could mean more spread.
"If you're in a public space, out of respect for each other, you should be wearing a mask," Dr. Birx told reporters. "You could be infected, not knowing you are infected, and innocently infecting one another."
Birx said if you're in an indoor space, without a mask, you cold be exposing others to a virus you may be carrying.
Birx said she took time to check out retailers, restaurants and hotels around Bismarck – and she said she saw relatively few people wearing masks.
"I can tell you that right now, Bismarck has the lowest mask utilization of any city or state we have visited to date," Dr. Birx said.
Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Director Renee Moch was part of the meeting with Dr. Birx. She said Bismarck businesses need to take the leadership role in requiring masks and social distancing.
"She [Dr. Birx] said in places that don't have mandates, the businesses are following through to make sure everybody's safe when they come into their facility, mask or not," Moch said. "Can you space chairs, tables and all of that? There are other things you can do."
Birx was in Fargo earlier this year. She said in Fargo, more people were wearing masks.