A top White House coronavirus expert said Wednesday in an interview with MTN News that Montana is seeing "significant community spread" of COVID-19 in different parts of the state.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Tas Force, told Q2's Jeanelle Slade in a satellite interview Montanans need to prioritize mask wearing and social distancing as the fall and holiday season arrives.
"You need to wear a mask, and you have to understand that the people you invite over for dinner may have the virus. You cannot have these social gatherings right now, or go into crowded areas without having a mask on or physically distancing," Birx said.
Birx said she monitors infection rates on a state level and is troubled with rising death and hospitalizations in Montana.
She noted recent upticks in cases in Cascade, Big Horn and Rosebud counties. Over the summer, the major increases statewide were in Yellowstone and Gallatin counties, but Birx noted that Gallatin seems to be managing to tamp down spread as cases have been dropping.
Birx encouraged Montanans to be diligent about face masks and social distancing heading into the fall, when cooler temperatures will force more people indoors.
"This is a very risky time, and we need to stop the spread of the virus throughout these communities in Montana," she said.
Birx also spoke about protections against virus spread in schools and universities, her own efforts to physically distance from her elderly parents and her belief that Montanans can engineer holiday gatherings to protect against spread.
Montana reported 348 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, a new single-day high for the state. The death toll rose to 180 statewide, and 170 people are in the hospital. Click here to visit the state's COVID-19 tracker, which updates cases daily.
Watch the full interview with Birx below: