Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited Stony Brook University on October 7, praising the University’s success in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and emphasizing steps that can be taken to help bring down cases in the future.
President Maurie McInnis welcomed Dr. Birx to campus and hosted discussions with Stony Brook University leadership, including Renaissance School of Medicine Dean Kenneth Kaushansky and Stony Brook Hospital CEO Carol Gomes, as well as researchers, students and the University’s COVID Response Team.
“Dr. Birx listened with great interest to our strategies for coping with the virus, such as our requirements for a negative test upon arrival and surveillance testing of resident students,” President McInnis said.
“In turn, we learned much of value from Dr. Birx, who stressed the need for enhanced surveillance in order to head off any possible resurgence in the community,” McInnis said. “Going forward, our continued focus on testing can help ensure that campus will remain open.”
In a series of meetings Birx received an overview of Stony Brook’s response to the virus, including campus policies and medical research. She has traveled across the country in recent months on a fact-finding mission, visiting universities and other institutions to engage in dialogue about preventative measures.
“I want to acknowledge the work of the President and every one of the staff members here, and the faculty, who have come together to provide, not only a learning experience, but an ability to bring students back to campus,” Birx said.
“One of the reasons I wanted to come particularly to Stony Brook is because this Hospital and this University stood at one of the most difficult times in March, April and May, and cared for their community in a really open and transparent and careful way,” she said.
She praised the Hospital and University for finding innovative solutions to challenges of patient care and worker safety.
Birx also acknowledged the students’ commitment to safety and communication, particularly as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.
“We talked to the students about helping us to communicate what a safe family gathering at Thanksgiving looks like,” she said. “Maybe we come together in our masks and set aside a special space for our grandparents or others who may have comorbidities so that they can eat and drink safely.”
Dr. Birx warned of a possible fall resurgence of the disease in the Northeast and called for active surveillance sites to track infections. She emphasized the importance of masks and physical distancing as residents move indoors during the colder months.
She also acknowledged the cooperative and tireless efforts of the University community at the height of the pandemic.
“Understanding what the University did to make sure that the students and the community were safe, needs to be constantly applauded,” she said.