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

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

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Plus, how Dems might frame the deficit debate
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

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

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.

Views of Deficit Depend on Framing: Analysis

A progressive group aligned with the Democratic Party released a report this week that explores Americans’ attitudes toward the budget deficit and the national debt. Analysts at Data for Progress found that voter support for deficit spending can vary depending on how it is framed — an insight that may play a role in the political and communications battle ahead over additional government spending on coronavirus relief and, should Joe Biden win the election, potentially a whole host of new federal initiatives, from public investment in green energy to increased support for housing and health care.

In a previous report, researchers found that “when deficit-spending is anchored to a promise of immediate, material benefits, voters become receptive to the idea.” In other words, Americans are more likely to support deficit spending if the money is used on things that clearly benefit them, such as infrastructure, health care and schools.

Similarly, telling people that more deficit-fueled spending is necessary to help people who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus produces increased support for the idea, with a majority expressing support.

In their new report, the analysts used a survey to test specific messages that frame deficit spending in different ways and found that most people support such spending if it’s said to pay for itself through long-term economic growth and to help needy fellow citizens (“To help Americans in need it’s okay if we increase the national debt in the short term”).

On the other hand, a message focusing on the hypocrisy of politicians who complain about the deficit while proving tax breaks for the rich (“Concern about the national debt is hypocritical. Whenever politicians need money for a war or a tax break for the rich, there’s money to be had. We should use deficit spending to help the working and middle class instead”) was less effective, with most respondents choosing an anti-deficit message (“The government needs to balance its books the way a household would. If our national debt gets too large we all leave an unaffordable burden of debt to our children”).

Voters are still divided:
Not surprisingly, there is a strong partisan difference in attitudes on all framing messages, with a majority of Republicans expressing opposition to deficit spending across different messages (linking deficit spending to increased economic growth is an exception). Democrats support all framing messages, though to varying degrees.

Map of the Day: Always Be Counting

As we prepare for endless barrage of maps, graphs and data tonight — and quite possibly well into the week — take a look at what may be the first map used to record election returns, from the election of 1880. Historian Susan Schulten says she found the map in the 1883 Statistical Atlas of the United States. The red and blue make it look surprisingly familiar. (h/t Ryan Heath at Politico)

You may not realize just how big today is. Yes, it’s Election Day, and that's huge. But it’s also National Sandwich Day — one of those promotional holidays that’s surely worth celebrating but that, sadly, is easy to overlook this year. Since we’ve got a little time before election results start coming in, tell us: What’s your favorite sandwich?

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