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‘It’s Devastatingly Worrisome.’ Dr. Birx Criticizes Anti-Lockdown Protesters in Michigan

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On Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, warned anti-lockdown protesters who are not adhering to federal guidelines that their actions are unsafe from a public health standpoint.

Birx was asked by host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday about “big crowds of protesters that went into the Michigan state capitol without masks, massing together in close quarters.”

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or an unfortunate outcome they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said. “So we need to protect each other at the same time as we’re voicing our discontent.

Birx’s comments on the Michigan protests appeared to divert from those made by President Donald Trump who had previously seemed to tweet in support of the demonstrations on Friday.

Birx on Sunday also addressed whether it was safe for people to flock to beaches, as well as whether states should be opening up beauty salons and spas.

On beaches, she said, “if it’s done with social distancing, yes. If it’s not done with social distancing, no.” Wallace remarked that visuals in California showed crowds on beaches clearly not adhering to social distancing.

Even if both parties at beauty salons and spas are wearing masks, it’s not enough to guarantee safety, Birx noted.

“It’s safer but we’ve made it clear that that is not a good Phase One activity and I think the President’s made that clear when he discussed the case in Georgia,” she said, referring to the federal guidelines for reopening local and regional economies. Some states, including Georgia, have allowed non-essential businesses like beauty salons and spas, to reopen. Trump has said he told Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp that he “disagrees strongly” with the decision, noting that “it’s just too soon” to be opening up spas, beauty salons, tattoo parlors and barber shops in Phase One.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com