Deborah Birx, White House task force member, visits UVM, applauds campus approach to coronavirus

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A member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is once again praising Vermont’s efforts during the pandemic.

As part of a national tour to find the best health practices in higher education, Dr. Deborah Birx, the nation’s coronavirus response coordinator, visited the University of Vermont on Saturday.

“Core to every university that has done extraordinarily well and has taught us greatly has been the universities that mandated testing,” she said.

Birx said frequent testing combined with diligent planning set the campus community up for success. “Stopping the silent spread early is the key to preventing hospitalizations and fatalities,” she said.

Since August, UVM has administered 70,000 coronavirus tests — about a quarter have been positive, the university said. “I’m pretty proud of our school,” said UVM sophomore Conor McCourt. “Everyone is wearing masks, keeping their distance, and it seems to be working out well,”

Freshman Justin Lista said it’s students’ responsibility to comply with public health guidelines.

“If we want to have an education, if we want to have somewhat of a normal college life we got to abide by these, and that’s why everybody’s doing it,” Lista said.

Dr. Birx noted that UVM has set up a tent on campus so students can get tested every week. She said it was an important element given that many college-age students do not exhibit symptoms of the virus.

“We’ve learned from the south that virus spreads from small gatherings of friends and family,” Birx said. “And being able to get that message out and what it really will have to take of us all as a community to make sure that we protect one another.”

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