White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx pointedly took aim at outgoing President Donald Trump for hindering the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic, complaining on Sunday that his flouting of guidelines and embrace of “myths” influences the public.
Meet the Press host Chuck Todd pushed Dr. Birx for a direct response on whether she believed large swatches of the population were following the president’s lead as he publicly ignores mitigation recommendations and spouts disinformation about the virus.
“Do you understand why some in the public say if he doesn’t think it’s a big deal, that maybe he thinks all of the health people are overdoing it, overselling it?” Todd added.
“I hear community members parroting back those situations, parroting back that masks don’t work, parroting back that we should work towards herd immunity, parroting back that gatherings don’t result in super-spreading events,” Dr. Birx stated. “And I think our job is to constantly say those are myths, they are wrong, and you can see the evidence base.”
She went on to say it was “frustrating” that many governors of states where cases are surging, specifically in the Sun Belt, aren’t putting into place the policies they know will work to stem the spread of the virus.
“This is not just the worse public health event,” Birx ominously warned. “This is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side. Yet we know what behaviors spread the virus and we know how to change those behaviors to stop spreading the virus.”
Birx was also asked about the frustration frontline health workers are feeling as cases and hospitalizations surge to record numbers while half the country appears to be ignoring mitigation efforts and social distancing guidelines.
“I understand it completely and it’s been a privilege to meet with them.” she told Todd, adding: “I think we have to come together with a joint understanding of how this virus is spread and how we can prevent the spread.”
Todd, noting that Birx was wearing a face mask during their interview, pressed her on the “mixed messaging” coming from the administration, pointing out that the White House and State Department are throwing holiday parties while the coronavirus task force is telling the public not to gather.
“I think it’s really important that every single person understands that the way this virus is spread is if you’re with anyone indoors without a mask, that’s a viral spreading opportunity,” the coronavirus response coordinator replied. “If you’re outdoors and hugging and kissing individuals, that’s a viral spreading opportunity.”
Birx’s frustration with the president, along with other members of the task force such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, has boiled over as the election drew to a close.
Much of the task force’s exasperation revolved around Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist Trump plucked from Fox News to serve as his coronavirus task guru. Atlas, who has since resigned, is a big proponent of “herd immunity” and believes mask-wearing is overrated.
While avoiding the wrath of Trump during the first few months of the coronavirus crisis, Birx finally drew his scorn after she began to aggressively push back against the White House’s rosy messaging on the disease over the summer.
Birx, meanwhile, is still not sure if the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden will retain her as part of their COVID-19 response effort. While Fauci has already accepted Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical adviser, Birx said last week that she doesn’t know what her role will be come Jan. 20.