Dear Commons Community,
Last night I watched a CNN documentary hosted by Sanjay Gupta that focused on the United States response to COVID-19 as seen through the eyes of six health officials who were involved in the Trump administration. The officials were — Dr. Deborah Birx, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Brett Giroir, Dr. Stephen Hahn, Dr. Robert Kadlec and Dr. Robert Redfield — all of whom talked about navigating a White House fraught with strained relationships.
Dr. Deborah Birx was candid in commenting about mixed messaging and prohibitions from sharing information with national audiences. She also indicated that the U.S. death toll could have been much lower if the Trump administration had acted faster (see video about the 1:10 minute mark). COVID-19 has left 548,000 people dead in the U.S.
Birx, who served as former President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, said the White House could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives if it had coordinated better during the onset of the pandemic. When pressed by Gupta on whether the country could have focused more on mitigation strategies, Birx acknowledged many lives could have been saved.
“I look at it this way ― the first time we have an excuse,” Birx said. “There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
“The federal government did not provide consistent messaging to the American people and that is fault number one,” Birx added later in the interview.
In recent months, Birx has faced criticism for praising Trump’s response to the pandemic even as he spread conspiracy theories or promoted unproven drugs as a potential cure to the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, leveled his own criticism at Birx during the CNN documentary, saying she should have done more to push Trump to act, but added she did “a lot of good” and was in a “difficult situation.”
Birx said she was subject to a “very uncomfortable” call from the former president after she appeared on CNN last August to speak about the threats of the virus.
When Gupta asked if she was threatened or censored, she demurred then said someone had blocked her from speaking further on national television.
“My understanding was I could not go national because the president might see it,” she said.
Birx was indeed in a difficult situation but at some point she had to put the country and the people’s interests first. She didn’t and she shares some of the blame for the coronavirus deaths.