[guest post by Dana]
In a CNN special about COVID-19, top health officials talk openly with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the pandemic and their experiences as medical professionals during the past year. Here is a devastating statement from Dr. Deborah Birx about the massive death toll in the US:
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator under Trump, said the majority of those deaths could have been prevented.
“I look at it this way — the first time we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge,” Birx said. “All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
In another segment of the interview, Dr. Birx, who joined the White House coronavirus task force to counter the administration’s efforts to play down the risk of Covid-19, was asked whether she felt Trump had threatened her to keep quiet about how widespread the virus was:
Birx was not able to do quite as much as she had hoped. After speaking out in August about the coronavirus pandemic being “extraordinarily widespread” across both rural and urban communities in the US, Birx received a call from former President Trump, after which she says she was blocked from speaking about the pandemic nationally.
“I got called by the President. It was very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult to hear,” Birx said.
Asked if President Trump threatened her, Birx said “I would say it was a very uncomfortable conversation.”
Birx said she took her public warnings about the pandemic to a local level.
She said she would speak frankly “with regional and local press and governors and mayors — and be very clear about mask mandates and closing bars and severely restricting indoor dining and all of these elements that I was never allowed to say nationally.
Asked if she was being censored, Birx said “Clearly someone was blocking me from doing it. My understanding is I could not be national because the President might see it.”
She added “He felt very strongly that I misrepresented the pandemic in the United States, that I made it out to be much worse than it is. I feel like I didn’t even make it out as bad as it was.”
It’s a bit hard to square Dr. Birx today with Dr. Birx one year ago when she just couldn’t say enough about Trump and his efforts in the pandemic fight:
"[Trump is] so attentive to the scientific literature & the details & the data. I think his ability to analyze & integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit” — this is shocking, hackish stuff from Dr. Birx. pic.twitter.com/c2phsRYaJs
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 27, 2020
“He’s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data. I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit during these discussions about medical issues.
Was it her worst decision to accept a position under the Trump administration in the first place? Would she have had more of a voice working outside of the White House and influence decisions that could have ultimately helped save more American lives? Obviously, Trump would have fired Dr. Birx had she openly defied his efforts to downplay the virus. But she would have walked out with her integrity fully intact. It’s been clear that those in prominent and influential positions in the Trump administration who had daily contact with the former president would eventually be compelled to make a decision about whether they were willing to cross the line of complicity or walk away:
She, like many of us, had no idea how badly his administration would distort, ignore and deny science and the truth during the pandemic. Although she said she took the job out of a sense of obligation (“That’s what a civil servant is supposed to do,” she said a year later), Birx became inextricably tied to the harmful decisions of her negligent, disastrously ignorant boss.
As of today, the U.S. COVID-19 death toll stands at 549,000.