White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx made a stop in Arkansas Monday and talked about the spread of the virus and how to reduce the chances of getting it.

Speaking to the media after talking to Governor Asa Hutchinson, Birx said her current travels have taken her to the middle of the country and she is seeing cases of COVID-19 “in the states above and below Arkansas.”

Birx said in Oklahoma, 50 percent of the counties have residents who have tested positive while in Arkansas, the percentage is 65 percent.

Stressing the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing, Birx said a major contributor to the spread of COVID-19 has been people going to parties, both inside and outside, and being around people who they believed did not have the virus, but were asymptomatic.

Asked why there is no national mandate to wear masks, even though experts have said masks can slow down the spread of the virus, Birx said mandates like that, and the enforcement of the mandates falls to the governor’s, and only one state in the south currently does not have a mask mandate.

Birx said she gas talked to the Governor about safety plans for the opening of schools and heard that there are a number of options, including all-virtual learning, in-class learning, and a combination of both. She said it will be important, if a student tests positive, for health department officials to quickly get the test results and then provide additional personnel so that every student and faculty member in that school can be tested.