Deborah Birx Tells Thanksgiving Travelers to Get Tested: 'Assume That You Were Exposed' to COVID-19

Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told Americans who traveled for Thanksgiving that they should get tested for the coronavirus. Those who went to large family gatherings should assume they were exposed to COVID-19 and should get a test win the next drew days, Birx said on CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday. Before the holiday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans against traveling to help limit the spread of the virus.

"We know people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period," Birx, the coordinator for the task force, said. "If you're young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to 10 days later. But you need to assume that you're infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask." Birx added that it is important to also avoid people with other serious medical conditions.

Before the holiday began, the CDC and health officials asked Americans to avoid traveling long distances on Thanksgiving, amid another surge in coronavirus infections. There are now over 13.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and over 266,000 Americans have died from the virus. Still, there was a significant uptick in travel in the days before and after Thanksgiving. The Transportation Security Administration reported screening 1.17 million people on Sunday, the most-ever screenings for a single day since the pandemic began. Overall, 9.4 million people were screened during the Thanksgiving travel window, which started on Nov. 20, reports CNN.

On Sunday, Birx said it was important for Americans to follow coronavirus guidelines themselves, even in areas where regulations like mask mandates are not in place. "To every American, this is the moment to protect yourself and your family," Birx told Face the Nation. "So if your governor or your mayor isn't doing the policies that we know are critical — masking, physical distancing, avoiding bars, avoiding crowded indoor areas — if those restrictions don't exist in your state, you need to take it upon yourself to be restricted. You need to not go to these places. You need to protect your family now."

Birx said she has been briefing Vice President Mike Pence daily, but did not say when she last spoke with President Donald Trump. She also hoped to start briefing President-elect Joe Biden's team on Monday to smooth the transition when Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. "The one thing that we will bring to the Biden administration in that discussion is to understand how they want to see the data because data isn't helpful if it's not actionable," Birx explained. "And each group needs to see it the way it moves them to action."