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The "Frightening" Place You Could Catch COVID, Warns Dr. Birx

But at the same time, COVID transmission in these places has become "frightening."
A family walking holding hands wearing face masks in the middle of pandemic

Although COVID-19 cases are setting records nationwide, some places have gotten safer, said Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force. But she noted that the coronavirus hasn't gone away—the hotspots of transmission have merely shifted. "Public spaces have gotten safer," said Birx in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "Companies have gotten safer. We're seeing transmission moving from public spaces into private spaces, as people gather unmasked." 

"We know masks work, physical distancing works," she added. "But if we don't change how we gather, we'll continue to have this surge across the country." Read on to hear her warning, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Where transmission is "frightening"

Birx said that although the COVID-19 rate is improving in some states where the surge started this fall — in the Northern Plains, Rocky Mountains, and some heartland states — increases in other states have offset those improvements.

Experts warned that Thanksgiving gatherings had the potential to become a nationwide super-spreader event "We'll see the impact of Thanksgiving later this week and into next week," said Birx. "And that's why we're so concerned, because the baseline virus was high." 

She added: "I think people really need to understand how much asymptomatic spread there is. And then the majority as spread is from people who don't know they're infected, being with others in close quarters with their mask off. And that's where transmission is frightening. You can't tell your grandchild, your nephew, your niece is infected or not." 

Birx said the task force has warned states about asymptomatic spread—which accounts for the majority of COVID transmission—and increased testing supplies, sending out 90 million rapid antigen tests to state and local governments. "Last Sunday, we really called for individuals who gathered on Thanksgiving to really get tested and get diagnosed early, because treatment works early," said Birx."We really sped treatment out as well as really increasing testing, because that will be key to stopping the spread." 

Also key: Mask use. "I wear a mask, anytime I'm outside of my household, even if I'm with people that are part of my family, if they're not part of my household," said Birx. "Understanding that anytime you take that mask off, that you could be transmitting the virus to others, or you could be getting the virus, is really very critical."

RELATED: 7 Tips You Must Follow to Avoid COVID, Say Doctors

How to stay alive in this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.