From her West Wing office, Dr. Birx serves as the link between federal agencies – the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and others – engaged in the response.
She is also the point of contact for national and local authorities and oversees the drafting of detailed reports providing guidance to States. She briefs Mr Pence every week and the President at least once a week, and faces the competing forces of the task force, which includes Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, and the Dr Robert R. Redfield, the director of the CDC. She is often the only woman in the room.
In interviews with AIDS activists and public health experts, Dr. Birx drew unfavorable comparisons to the outspoken Dr. Fauci in whose lab she was trained. Mr Gonsalves, who has known them both for a long time, said he wrote to Drs. Birx, Fauci and Redfield, as well as Admiral Brett P. Giroir, who oversees coronavirus testing, complaining that they were “parroting the president.” Only Dr Fauci responded.
“Debbie is now in the position of telling the Emperor that these new clothes are fantastic,” Mr. Gonsalves said.
But in the White House, aides call Dr. Birx “Dr. Doom ”for his efforts to temper the President’s positive turn. And she and Dr Fauci are not in the same situation. Dr Fauci, 79, is nearing the end of his career and is a civil servant, giving him a voice. Dr. Birx, 64, is a politician who acts at the will of the President.
“She is one of the hardest workers and she is dedicated to trying to bring this pandemic under control,” Dr Fauci said in an interview Tuesday night.