Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, joins Chris Wallace on ‘Fox News Sunday.’

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White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned that even though states are beginning to reopen, with some beaches being made available to the public over Memorial Day weekend, people must still maintain social distancing precautions and wear masks where appropriate.

The U.S. death toll is expected to surpass 100,000 in the coming days, going well beyond an April projection of 60,000 total deaths and more in line with earlier predictions that expected the pandemic to yield casualties in the six-figure range.

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“[T]here’s clear scientific evidence now by all the droplet experiments that happen and that others have done to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others,” Birx told “Fox News Sunday,” recognizing that Americans will want to get out over the holiday weekend. “And out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance. It’s really critically important, we have the scientific evidence of how important mask wearing is to prevent those droplets from reaching others.”

States like California and New Jersey have opened up beaches, but footage has shown that not everyone enjoying the outdoors has been taking precautions to prevent spreading COVID-19.

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“We know that it’s important for people to socially interact, but we also know it’s important that we have to have masks on when we’re less than 6 feet and that we have to maintain that 6 feet distance,” Birx said. “We know being outside does help, we know sun does help in killing the virus, but that doesn’t change the fact that people need to be responsible and maintain that distance.”

President Trump has been criticized for his reluctance to wear a mask in public, although he was seen wearing one during a tour of a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Mich.

When asked about the current death toll surpassing last month’s projection of 60,000 fatalities, Birx claimed that the relatively low prediction was based on just one model among several the White House follows, including the one that earlier had projected between 100,000 and 240,000.

“Our job now going forward is to do everything we can to prevent additional hospitalizations and additional mortality,” she said.

Meanwhile, Birx said that an aggressive approach to vaccine development could potentially produce a vaccine up to eight months earlier than what would normally be the case. She said that by producing certain vaccine candidates ahead of time while awaiting the results of tests, they will have a head start on manufacturing should one of those products yield positive results and gain approval.

“So that’s what’s happening now — is taking the most promising candidates and getting them into manufacturing, ensuring that you can scale and produce these vaccines at a level that is needed for Americans,” Birx said.

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