Birx Contradicts Trump, Warns Pandemic Entering ‘Most Deadly Phase’
Health Care

Birx Contradicts Trump, Warns Pandemic Entering ‘Most Deadly Phase’

Larry McCormack / The Tennessean

Dr. Deborah Birx, a top White House adviser on the coronavirus task force, warned Monday that the pandemic is entering its “most concerning and most deadly phase” and called for “much more aggressive action” to combat the virus.

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic,” Birx wrote in a memo Monday to top administration officials, according to The Washington Post. “This is not about lockdowns — it hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.”

The warning stands in sharp contrast with the repeated assertions by President Trump that the country is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic and that media coverage of the virus was politically motivated and would vanish after the election. The report warned against the type of rallies the president has been holding over the final days of the campaign.

More from the Post’s Lena H. Sun and Josh Dawsey:

“Birx’s internal report, shared with top White House and agency officials, contradicts Trump on numerous points: While the president holds large campaign events with hundreds of attendees, most without masks, she explicitly warns against them. While the president blames rising cases on more testing, she says testing is ‘flat or declining’ in many areas where cases are rising. And while Trump says the country is ‘rounding the turn,’ Birx notes that the country is entering its most dangerous period yet and will see more than 100,000 new cases a day this week.”

The report also said it was “essential” that officials deliver “consistent messaging about uniform use of masks, physical distancing and hand washing with profound limitation on indoor gatherings especially with family and friends.”

Resisting new restrictions: Yet even as coronavirus cases surge across the country, many states across the country are following Trump’s lead and resisting new measures to slow the spread of the pandemic, The New York Times’s Mike Baker reports:

“President Trump and his administration have expressed increasing helplessness at containing the virus, focusing instead on improvements in survivability and trying to hold the economy together. … Governors around the country, particularly Republican ones, are following the president’s lead in resisting new restrictions against a virus that has powerfully persisted despite lockdowns in some areas over the spring and summer.

“Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota wrote that ‘there is no way to stop the virus,’ while Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota said that when it comes to saving lives, ‘it’s not a job for government, this is a job for everybody.’ In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee told residents that ‘at the end of the day, personal responsibility is the only way.’ Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska said in an interview that rising case numbers this fall should not cause people to go into hiding.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN last month that “we’re not going to control the pandemic” and emphasized a focus on treatments and vaccines.

It’s not just governors: The signs of virus fatigue extend far beyond Republican political leaders. A September Gallup survey cited by the Times found that Americans have dialed back on social distancing practices since the early days of the pandemic, though more than 90% still report wearing a mask when outside their home.

“Americans are less likely now than at any point since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to say they are avoiding events with large crowds (70%), public places such as stores and restaurants (53%) and small gatherings (45%),” Gallup said of the survey.

The percentage of people who told Gallup they always or often practiced social distancing over the past 24 hours slipped from 92% in April to 72% in September.

What it means: It’s up to the American public to step up. “[E]ven if Joe Biden wins the election, he won't take office until late January, and won't be able to fully staff up and implement his plans until weeks after that,” writes Jill Filipovic at CNN. “Unless the Trump administration finally does what Birx and other public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci are asking -- and given their behavior so far, we have no reason to believe they will -- we are going to be largely on our own for this long, deadly winter.”

Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times.