Birx describes a White House divided over COVID response

WASHINGTON (AP) – The lack of a clear, concise and coherent message about the seriousness of the novel coronavirus in the early months of its spread created a false sense of security among Americans that the pandemic would not be serious and would result in early inaction. federal government.

This Dr. That was the assessment of Deborah Birx, who served as the COVID response coordinator under former President Donald Trump and testified on Thursday for the first time in front of a House panel about his time in the Trump administration.

“It wasn’t just the president, many of our leaders were using words like ‘we could contain,’ and you can’t have a virus that can’t be seen,” Birx said. “And it wasn’t being seen because we weren’t testing.”

Birx appeared before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, whose partisan divide was evident throughout the hearing as Democrats focused their attention on missteps made during the Trump administration, while Republicans did the same when it sided with Democratic-led states. Like in New York or under the Biden administration, such as when President Joe Biden exaggerated the efficacy of vaccines by telling Americans at a CNN town hall, “If you have these vaccinations you are not going to get COVID. “

Much of the hearing focused on concerns. Birx had Dr. Scott Atlas, who joined the White House in the summer of 2020 as a pandemic adviser and argued that it was okay for people at low risk to become infected with the virus. As long as the weak are protected. Birx was asked why she thought the scene was so dangerous.

“Dr. Atlas was of the view that any person who was not going to have a serious illness should be allowed to become infected,” Birx said. could magically isolate vulnerable Americans from that transition.”

She said that while Atlas and other officials supported that view about the virus, it raised suspicion with the American public.

“It created a feeling that anything could be perfect,” she said.

Birx also said that Atlas’ tenure “destroyed any coherence in the White House response.”

To underscore the division in the White House, the subcommittee issued new emails, ranging from Birx to then-CDC Director Robert Redfield, then-FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

in August. 11, 2000, e-mailed, Birx described a “very dangerous meeting yesterday at OVAL” with a list of concerns. “The conclusion was that Dr. Atlas is brilliant and the president will now follow his guidance.” She wrote. She said she would continue her focus in working with states, but cast doubt on her ability to change the president’s mind about what needs to be done, such as stricter mask use, expanding testing, strict social distancing and reopening of school. Limiting openings from where there was uncontrolled community spread.

Atlas was not a participant in the hearing, but he did participate in an extensive interview with committee staff earlier this year in which he downplayed his role on the White House’s COVID efforts.

“Dr. Birx was responsible for policies that were implemented before and during my time and even after I left. Throughout, policies were directly from Dr. Birx to the governors and it never changed,” Atlas said. Told.

Atlas said his role in the White House was to bring information to the president and he was critical of the “Birx-Fauci lockdown”, which he described as a failure.

“Elderly people were still dying. The infection was still spreading. It was a failure, and this widespread lockdown had caused huge losses to our children and families,” he told the committee.

A subcommittee report released in the days before the hearing concluded that the Trump administration’s disregard of proven mitigation measures resulted in a federal response that did little from the implementation of a deliberate herd immunity strategy.

Birx estimated that the lives of 130,000 Americans could have been saved after the first wave of the pandemic if the federal government had implemented “optimal mitigation in this country.” The US death toll from COVID-19 passed 1 million last month.

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