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White House task force member offers plea to Nebraskans as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn(U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 12:57 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A day after White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx put Omaha on a list of 10 cities across the country seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, another member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force addressed what he’s seeing in the state of Nebraska.

“My plea to the people of Nebraska and Omaha is please follow these common-sense measures. The other one is to avoid crowded indoor spaces,” said Dr. Stephen Hahn, who is also commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. “We all like to go out to dinner or to the bars. Try to avoid them because they’re places where there’s a very high probability of spread.”

That plea comes as Nebraska moved into the “red zone” after an increase of COVID-19 cases. More than 10% of cases are coming back positive.

“That usually presages emergency room visits and hospitals, and we’ve seen this across the country,” Hahn said. “I mean the big point here is the virus is still with us.”

Dr. Hahn said one way to stop the spread of the virus is to wear a mask.

Currently, there is not a mask mandate for the state, or for the City of Omaha, but at their next meeting, Omaha City Council members will vote on an emergency ordinance to require masks.

“To me, it’s not an issue of ‘mandate vs. not.’ It’s ’OK, here’s the data.’ We just showed in Arizona, Texas, Arizona, that this works,” Hahn said.

And the first day of a new school year is quickly approaching for many across the country. In Omaha, it’s just a few days away.

The FDA commissioner said the debate on when to re-open schools should be up to the individual district, but he said the task force and the federal government have provided some guidelines.

“Should you test? What should teachers wear? What should you do if there’s a case. A child or an adult has COVID-19 — these are the things we need to be prepared for,” he said.

As many look forward a life post-COVID, Dr. Hahn said a vaccine will be necessary, but only a safe and effective vaccine will get FDA approval.

“We’re not going to cut any corners. We’re going to do what’s right for the American people,” he said. “Everybody wants a vaccine quickly. Everybody does. But everyone wants a safe and effective vaccine quickly, not just a vaccine.”

Dr. Hahn said a third and final phase of vaccine trials will start this month and that the FDA is continuing to address a lack of diversity within these trials.

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