Former White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said most coronavirus deaths in the United States were avoidable, during a CNN interview for a documentary scheduled to air Sunday.
In an excerpt from “Covid War: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out,” Birx said that while many deaths in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic were likely inevitable, the lethality of later waves could have been greatly reduced if the U.S. had “mitigated earlier … paused earlier and actually done” greater social distancing and shutdown measures.
“I look at it this way,” Birx told CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
In March 2020, Birx and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that nearly 240,000 would die from the coronavirus if precautions were not taken. To date, there are nearly 550,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracker.
In December, Birx said she would retire from her position as White House coronavirus coordinator amid the Biden administration’s transition into government. The move was widely seen in response to her tarnished reputation among Democrats, who saw her as an enabler of the Trump administration’s COVID-19 strategy.
“The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said in a tweet responding to Birx’s recent comments. “And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him.”
Birx’s comments are among a series of comments the former White House aide has made since leaving the Trump administration. Many public health officials in the federal government often clashed with former President Donald Trump over the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s public comments contradicting scientific evidence.
“I can’t tell you how many discussions we had on, how do we get the message out realizing what’s happening at the most senior levels of the White House,” Birx told ABC News earlier this month. The longtime physician added that Trump’s comments directing people to inject disinfectant into themselves made her “extraordinarily uncomfortable.”
In a January CBS News interview, Birx also said “there were people who definitely believed that [the coronavirus] was a hoax” in the White House and that Trump’s public comments often directly contradicted guidelines she and other health officials would give governors and local leaders about the pandemic.