The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Deborah Birx, MD, Former White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator

Deborah Birx, MD joins Washington Post Live on Thursday, April 28 (Video: The Washington Post)

Deborah Birx, MD, is a lifelong public health official who previously led the Trump White House coronavirus task force. Washington Post health policy reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb talks with Birx about her time as the COVID-19 response coordinator, the alarms she raised and the costly mistakes she says were made at all levels of the federal government, as detailed in her new book, “Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of The Trump Administration, COVID-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late."

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Highlights

“He wasn't talking to me. He was talking to the DHS scientists. So, he was turned at a complete right angle to me. In other words, I couldn't catch his eye. I couldn't shake my head. I couldn't be like, ‘What are you doing?’ I couldn't send any nonverbal signals…and that's why I was looking at the floor because I could not figure out how to get his attention. And frankly, the DHS scientist was encouraging this line of dialogue. Which is another thing I couldn't understand in any way… That did not have to happen. And I think it illustrates the difficulty in this White House where there was a lack of discipline around access…to the President's information not being portrayed in a comprehensive manner. Certainly, if I had been in the Oval Office when they started that dialogue, I would have been able to prevent this from happening…ABC gave me a great insight in that, she said, ‘Well, maybe you could have stepped between them.’ And you know, that hadn't occurred to me before. I was only thinking of going to the podium. I wasn't thinking of stepping between the dialogue. And I think that would have been the right thing to do.”- Deborah Birx, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)
“I know that another surge is coming and will be coming across the world because every four to six months in South Africa, where 50 to 60% of the population is infected with every single surge and every different variant, there's no protection and there's no long-lived natural immunity. And when there's no long-lived natural immunity and the vaccine is based on natural infection, the current vaccines will not be durable to protect against infection… So, although we're improving in our ability to control to severe disease and hospitalization, there are a lot of Americans, particularly those over 70 and those with immunodeficiency. 35 million Americans are over 70 don't have effective immunity to this virus and therefore are still susceptible to severe disease. And we have to figure out who they are.”- Deborah Birx, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)
“It was clear to me by the middle of April that the President's attention was elsewhere and it continued that way. On the other hand, the Vice President's attention remained firmly engaged and there were others in the White House, helping us execute a comprehensive response… In any pandemic…the most important thing is consistent communication based on evidence where you're showing the evidence to the American public, so they're learning with you about what you're seeing and why you're asking them to do certain things. But communication is the backbone of public health and an effective public health response and we lost the President's communication and focus on this by the beginning of April.”- Deborah Birx, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)

Deborah Birx, MD

Former White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator

Author, “Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late”


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