OXFORD, Miss. (WMC) - The White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx made a visit to the University of Mississippi campus Saturday to discuss and learned about the university’s response to the pandemic.
Birx held a closed-door question-and-answer session with Ole Miss representatives to discuss their COVID-19 prevention plans that she says have been successful and to give the university suggestions on how they can improve to continue limiting the spread of the virus.
Birx stopped in Oxford as part of her ongoing tour of schools in the Southeastern Conference to learn strategies from what she says has been a successful response to COVID-19.
“I just wanted to hear the university plans and the reason we really wanted to hear them is because we wanted to be able to take them to other universities so that we can learn and we can learn from each other,” said Birx.
She said on her tour of campus she liked most of what she saw.
“I wanted to thank the students of Ole Miss because I saw a lot of students in masks however their parents were not,” Birx said. “And so to every student of Ole Miss get your parents to wear masks when they come to the town of Oxford.”
Birx had strong praise for the University of Mississippi’s COVID-19 dashboard that currently shows 114 active confirmed cases.
She had one critical recommendation for campus leaders, to increase testing, especially among asymptomatic students.
“I think increasing testing in students will be critical,” Birx said. “They have the capacity it’s just not that all the students volunteered. So we really need to get they message out that testing is a path forward to staying open.”
“That’s something that we will take and we will move on quickly and start to work even more so in terms of encouraging our students in particular to come get tested,” said Glenn Boyce, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi.
Birx’s visit to the Mid-South comes on the day the University of Memphis has postponed their upcoming football game with the University of Houston following an outbreak of COVID-19 amongst Memphis football players.
Birx says she believes teams and their college football seasons should continue even after outbreaks.
“In the first instance, yes you need to investigate it, you need to work at it, you need to fix it but then you need to keep going in a positive way,” Birx said.
Back in July, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee were all in the COVID-19 red zone, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Birx said Saturday all southern states have improved dramatically since then but now many several in the Mid-West have moved into that red zone.