Dear Colleagues, I certainly don’t need to tell any of you how unprecedented and difficult these past eight months have been. As I write this, more than 7.5 million Americans have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The tragedy of what the country has been through is what you all have been living non-stop. Most tragic, of course, are the 215,000 deaths of our fellow citizens from this scourge. I am sure that not a day goes by without you hoping, wishing you could have done more—and could do more—to totally shut down the COVID-19 pandemic.
You are working for a president who is a pathologic, unrepentant liar on matters big and small and defiantly uninformed about virtually every aspect of what it takes to understand and manage this terrible public health crisis. Donald Trump has mocked the basic principles of infection control that all of you know to be true! And, behind closed doors, I find it hard to believe you would disagree with the assertion that the president may be one of the most flagrant coronavirus super-spreaders on the planet.
I write to you not as a casual observer of the global crisis that has overtaken so much of our national discourse, but as a fellow physician who has been involved in disaster response for decades, wrote a book in 2006 about why a pandemic was inevitable and how to prepare for one, and who knows many of you personally and all of you by reputation. With all due respect for your work: It’s past time to step down and speak out.
Dr. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, your discomfort in having to publicly support this president is palpable. You have served six presidents and our nation’s health for more than four decades and have adamantly refused to ever endorse any politician running for office. Yet, just days ago, you found yourself in a campaign ad to re-elect the president, an endorsement you have verbally denounced.
Dr. Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we watched you testify at a Senate Committee hearing, with the science behind you and the grace of your professional demeanor, only to be belittled—and, incredibly, challenged on the issues in public—by the president.
Dr. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, you endured one of the most shameful moments of these past nine months. We felt for you, your head bowed, as the president, staring directly at you, expounded about the possibility of treating COVID-19 by injecting bleach and applying internal UV light.
Dr. Giroir, assistant secretary at Health and Human Services, you told me in late April that the nation would need two to three billion face masks. Those never materialized. I know that you and your task force colleagues would always try to resist pressure from the White House to adopt policies you don’t believe in. But you and your colleagues have watched, I suspect in horror, unending attempts by the White House to influence and control policies and messages from every key federal public health agency.
Dr. Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, you were in the Situation Room at the White House this past March, about to present your incredible plan to distribute 650 million face masks among every household in the U.S. You were pulled from the meeting and your plan was killed, just before you were supposed to have presented it to the vice president and other senior officials. How many lives would your proposal have saved?
Dr. Hahn, FDA administrator, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you having your agency under tremendous pressure from the White House to speed up approvals for COVID-19 testing and vaccines. How long can you personally sustain the FDA’s reputation?
So here you all are, serving the most anti-science, incompetent and inhumane president in U.S. history. Do you remain at your posts trying to do your jobs, trying to beat back the ignorance and political pressures which must be unbearable—or do you make an extraordinary statement?
This is not what you went to medical school and trained for. Your well- earned reputations are being tarnished through no fault of your own. And people are dying because of policies and incompetence you are forced to abide.
It is time to make your biggest statement of all: Step down, now and en masse.
The country needs you to do this—and to explain why you are doing so. Get on a conference call or video meeting and resolve, as a group, to make a dramatic and difficult decision. Tell America how the oaths you took as physicians and the national interest demand that you take this action. You need not endorse Joe Biden or otherwise play politics here. But you can speak out about the pressures that have been put on you by Donald Trump to play politics with science and medicine.
You have all had outstanding careers of great accomplishment. None of you need worry about what happens next on a personal basis or with respect to your professional lives. Medical academia would welcome you immediately, of course. And if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris prevail in November, they would be foolish not to consider bringing you back into government in positions that would help develop and shape policies in your areas of expertise.
But for right now, make your children, and all of us, proud that you did something to stand up for public health, science and for saving lives by refusing to work for President Donald J. Trump.
November 4th will be too late.