Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force said Thursday she's concerned about the uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Northeast, noting how more people are becoming infected because of indoor family gatherings and social events.
Birx acknowledged the rest of the country learned from the experiences of Connecticut and other northeastern states during the early days of the pandemic. The kind of spread that is happening now, she said, is "very different" from the spread of the coronavirus during March and April.
"The spread of the virus now is not occurring so much in the workplace as people have taken precautions. It's happening in homes and social occasions and people gathering and taking their mask off and letting down their guard and not physically distancing," said Birx, noting that was a lesson learned in the South during the hot summer months, when people went indoors for air conditioning.
She repeatedly stressed the need to wear face masks and social distance, as well as more testing for people who have the virus but aren't showing symptoms and can unknowingly spread it.
Birx met Thursday with Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, his public health staff, and faculty members, students and staffers from the University of Connecticut at the downtown Hartford campus to discuss the university's efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. She credited the university with having one of the highest percentages of students taking in-person classes in the U.S.
Her visit came the same day the Connecticut Department of Public Health issued a COVID-19 alert for New London, urging residents to stay home if they don't feel well, avoid indoor gatherings with people they don't live with, limit trips outside the home and wear masks anytime they leave the home.
Between Sept. 20 and Oct. 3, New London recorded at least 115 new cases, which increased the daily case rate to 30.5 per 1000,000. It's one of the highest rates in the state.
The department issued a similar alert last week for nearby Norwich. Both communities are in a part of Connecticut that did not see large numbers of infections during the height of the pandemic.
Birx said indoor activities with the heat on are "particularly conducive to spreading events without your mask." She suggested people increase ventilation with outside air, including cracking a window.