Deborah Birx responds to comments on Trump’s coronavirus tests on CNN


Although the president continues to boast and boast of American tests, in recent days he has expressed skepticism about the need to do the same. On Tuesday, he did both in the same breath.

Trump said that even though the United States has “the best tests in the world” and “the most tests in the world”, he didn’t think “you need this type of test or so many tests”. The next day Trump took his remarks a step further, telling reporters at the White House: “In a way, by doing all of these tests, we make ourselves look bad.”

Although Birx did not respond directly when asked on Thursday whether the tests looked bad, she fully approved of the need.

“I was very encouraged by two parts of the tests,” said Birx at a CNN city hall. “First, the dramatic increase in the number of tests we perform per week. We hope that this week will approach or exceed 8 million, we are increasing. ”

So far, about 2.5% of all Americans have been tested, said Birx, adding that the number was increasing by 0.5% every week. Testing and contact tracing, she said, have been instrumental in helping local leaders identify cases and contain the spread of the virus within their borders.

Birx also stressed the importance of “being proactive in screening”, namely monitoring places such as prisons, long-term care facilities and inner city communities, and not just focusing on people with symptoms.

“I want to emphasize again and again that this asymptomatic diffusion is essential,” she said. “We have to be able to find it.”

His response marked another example of conflict between the best scientists and public health experts in the Trump administration and the president.

In recent months, Trump has repeatedly touted the use of antimalarials, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as potentially game-changing coronavirus treatments, despite science and scientists saying the opposite.

Meanwhile, Trump and some of his allies also continue to suggest that the coronavirus was prepared in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the epidemic originated. The country’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, among others, said there was no scientific evidence for this and there was evidence to the contrary.

Cooper, who was joined by CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, opened Birx’s interview on Thursday asking why the guidelines for the country’s reopening of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not yet been published, although they have been in the works for weeks.

Earlier in the day, the Associated Press and CNN reported that the White House had shelved the recommendations – a move that would further limit the public role of the CDC during a pivotal moment in the country’s coronavirus response, as more half of the states reopen or the process of lifting restrictions.

In response to Cooper, Birx pointed out that administration officials are “in close partnership” with the CDC on a number of different directives, including those relating to the reopening of the country.

“No one has stopped these guidelines. We’re still being edited, “said Birx with a smile. “I just got my changes from the CDC last night. I work on it as soon as I leave this discussion. We are constantly working with the CDC and really appreciate their partnership. “

Birx later applauded the CDC for “how proactive they have been in working with the White House and really making sure the best science comes to the fore” in the official recommendations.

“Is that what guides retouching, science? Cooper insisted. “Because it seems that, according to some comments made about these guidelines, they are also political beliefs, religious beliefs. … Are the scientists making the changes? “

“I like to think I’m a scientist and I work with the CDC on editions,” replied Birx. She noted that the changes are more intended to simplify the guidelines so that they can be understood by both the public and health officials.

Then, the conversation turned to another delicate subject: the practice of wearing masks in the White House, in the light of the news that a valet, whose work potentially puts him in close daily contact with Trump , had tested positive for the new virus.

Trump has made it clear that he is not a fan of wearing a mask himself and was spotted barefoot this week during a visit to a mask manufacturing facility in Phoenix. Likewise, Vice President Pence recently resisted criticism for failing to use a face covering during his visit to the famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“We are all very nervous every day. None of us want to be the only one to introduce a coronavirus to the White House, ”said Birx. “Most of us do nothing but go to work and go home. If we go out, even for a walk, I can assure you that we wear masks in public. “

When Gupta asked Birx if she would tell people to start wearing masks around Trump given the easy transmission of the virus, the doctor cleverly dodged the question.

“Certainly, there are people who wear masks on the White House complex,” she said, before changing to discuss efforts by officials to maintain social distance in their daily interactions.

“I am very scrupulous and I know that all the meetings we have are very focused on social distancing,” she continued. “We are all very concerned about protecting others and being careful not to become positive ourselves.”


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