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White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Birx says holidays will look different this year

Dr. Deborah Birx recommended that any holiday family gatherings should be kept small, with everyone wearing masks.

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The holidays will look different this year for families trying to keep older or vulnerable relatives safe, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the leading national experts handling coronavirus.

Birx was visiting Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, which might rank as her favorite stop of her national college tour. Her brother, Donald Birx, is president of the school.

"I think she saw it how we are doing it here in New Hampshire," Donald Birx said. "And although she pointed out some highlights about some things we should do better, I think on the whole, the result was pretty good."

Deborah Birx said Monday that testing and masks are the keys to staying ahead of an outbreak.

"We know most individuals under 35 will be asymptomatic," she said. "That means you don't have any symptoms, or the symptoms are so mild that you don't believe it has anything to do with COVID."

More than 3,500 students returned to campus in August. School officials said they average 3,800 COVID-19 tests each week. Deborah Birx toured the testing facility, where her brother was swabbed.

"This virus can spread among families and friends if you take your mask off and you are primarily indoors," she said.

The new threat for outbreaks, according to the doctor, is people's homes. Another threat is when people are in vacation mode, such as over the past weekend.

"Traveling over here, we crossed a lot of people having weddings. No one in masks," she said. "We crossed a lot of establishments where the parking lot was full. No one was outdoors."

She recommended that any holiday family gatherings should be kept small, with everyone wearing masks.