(Reuters) - White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Deborah Birx urged the use of masks among people living in counties and metro areas where more than 5 percent of COVID-19 tests are positive, even as President Donald Trump has refused to wear a mask in public.
“We really believe (in) ... the uniform use of masks in all metros and in all areas with rising new infections, particularly counties and metros with over 5% positivity,” Birx said in a video panel session for a COVID-19 conference organized by the International AIDS Society.
Trump has refused to wear a mask publicly or ask Americans to do so, although he has said he would if he was in a crowd and could not distance himself. Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the task force, has urged greater mask wearing.
There are 13 states where both case rates and the percentage of positive tests are rising, she said. There are 154 counties with significantly increasing cases and 12 states and 17 metro areas where positive test rates are above 10 percent, she said.
As COVID-19 infections in metro areas rise, Birx said the government is watching whether Black Lives Matter protests, which drew thousands of people in some cities, had contributed to the spread of the new coronavirus.
“Not sure we have full information from protests yet because we are starting to see rises in some of our metro areas and we need to track that very carefully,” Birx said.
(This story has been refiled to remove typo from headline)
Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengalaru and Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller