Coronavirus response coordinator Birx 'encouraged' by Italy's decline in virus deaths

Birx has been taking part in the White House's daily coronavirus briefings

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is encouraged by the latest data from Italy that shows a decline in the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths.

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"We're looking at the Italy data," Dr. Deborah Birx told "Mornings with Maria" on Tuesday. "I think we're encouraged over the last few days to watch the number of deaths starting to decline. That will be our first indicator, that what we put in place and what they put in place in Italy ... is starting to have an impact now."

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"Deaths are a measure of what you did two and three weeks ago, not what you did now," she said.

Birx has been taking part in the White House's daily coronavirus briefings. The U.S. reports 46,450 confirmed cases of the virus and 593 deaths.

President Donald Trump listens as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Birx also discussed fears that the virus or its genetic material, RNA, can live on hard surfaces for days.

"There are fragments of RNA that stay possibly for days," Birx said. "I don't know at this point how long the infectious virus is there, but I think if we still find RNA at three days, we should assume that at least up to 24 hours there could be infectious virus there."

"It is the metal surfaces that we're most concerned about," she continued. "Think about where you touch during the day, hard plastic and metals, doorknobs, holding onto the handrails in subways. That's why we're very concerned in metro areas that have subways and other elements like that."

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Birx has a background in immunology and was appointed U.S. Global AIDS coordinator by former President Barack Obama in 2014.