Former COVID Response Coordinator Criticizes Early Missteps

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Former COVID Response Coordinator Criticizes Early Missteps
Dr. Deborah Birx testified before a House subcommittee, saying unclear messaging in the early days of the pandemic resulted in inaction.

The former coordinator of President Trump's COVID-19 task force told lawmakers Thursday that the administration's response to the pandemic was mired by dangerous misinformation shared by one of the president's own advisers. 

In her first testimony since leaving office, Dr. Deborah Birx told members of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis that Dr. Scott Atlas — a radiologist and political commentator who was brought on as an adviser to the task force — advised President Trump to focus on only protecting those in nursing homes and allow others to get sick in order to reach herd immunity.

In a new August 2020 email obtained by the committee, Dr. Birx expressed concern to Dr. Anthony Fauci and other task force members over what she described as a "very dangerous" meeting in the oval office with the president.

She said in that meeting, Dr. Atlas said masks were overrated and unnecessary, testing was very overrated, and that case identification is bad for the president's campaign. Therefore, testing should only be done for the sick.

The conclusion of this meeting, she wrote, was that "Dr. Atlas is brilliant and the president will be following his advice from now on."

This led to division between members of the president's COVID response team, and the result was a loss of public trust in the federal response.

Dr. Birx said the overall result was a disjointed message from the White House that underplayed the seriousness of the virus and cost hundreds of thousands of American lives.