Which is only fair, since her enabling of Trump is a catastrophe from which the nation will never recover. The NY Times has a piece on how Trump failed the pandemic test, and Birx plays a prominent role in it.
For scientific affirmation, they turned to Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the sole public health professional in the Meadows group. A highly regarded infectious diseases expert, she was a constant source of upbeat news for the president and his aides, walking the halls with charts emphasizing that outbreaks were gradually easing. The country, she insisted, was likely to resemble Italy, where virus cases declined steadily from frightening heights.
On April 11, she told the coronavirus task force in the Situation Room that the nation was in good shape. Boston and Chicago are two weeks away from the peak, she cautioned, but the numbers in Detroit and other hard-hit cities are heading down.
A sharp pivot soon followed, with consequences that continue to plague the country today as the virus surges anew.
In April. I remember April. Did anyone think we were on the right path in April? We’d shut down my university, but already I was seeing people refuse to accept it, clamoring to get back to bars and beaches.
Dr. Birx was more central than publicly known to the judgment inside the West Wing that the virus was on a downward path. Colleagues described her as dedicated to public health and working herself to exhaustion to get the data right, but her model-based assessment nonetheless failed to account for a vital variable: how Mr. Trump’s rush to urge a return to normal would help undercut the social distancing and other measures that were holding down the numbers.
Yeah, models built on assumptions, like that Americans wouldn’t be stupid, and that Trump wouldn’t encourage that stupidity. Just the fact that Donald Trump is president should tell you how wrong that is.
Inside the White House, Dr. Birx was the chief evangelist for the idea that the threat from the virus was fading.
Unlike Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx is a strong believer in models that forecast the course of an outbreak. Dr. Fauci has cautioned that “models are only models” and that real-world outcomes depend on how people respond to calls for changes in behavior — to stay home, for example, or wear masks in public — sacrifices that required a sense of shared national responsibility.
Again, a responsible nation would not have elected Donald Trump.
Dr. Birx’s belief that the United States would mirror Italy turned out to be disastrously wrong. The Italians had been almost entirely compliant with stay-at-home orders and social distancing, squelching new infections to negligible levels before the country slowly reopened. Americans, by contrast, began backing away by late April from what social distancing efforts they had been making, egged on by Mr. Trump.
The difference was critical. As communities across the United States raced to reopen, the daily number of daily cases barely dropped below 20,000 in early May. The virus was still circulating across the country.
Italy’s recovery curve, it turned out, looked nothing like the American one.
Nope. Because Italians were smarter than Americans…or rather, I should say, Italians didn’t have failed leaders who were modeling the worst possible behavior for containing the infection, and didn’t have scientists feeding their delusions.
Other nations had moved aggressively to employ an array of techniques that Mr. Trump never mobilized on a federal level, including national testing strategies and contact tracing to track down and isolate people who had interacted with newly diagnosed patients.
“These things were done in Germany, in Italy, in Greece, Vietnam, in Singapore, in New Zealand and in China,” said Andy Slavitt, a former federal health care official who had been advising the White House.
“They were not secret,” he said. “Not mysterious. And these were not all wealthy countries. They just took accountability for getting it done. But we did not do that here. There was zero chance here that we would ever have been in a situation where we would be dealing with ‘embers.’ ”
We could still take those actions that other nations did — in fact, we really ought to, despite the fact that it’s late and those measures will cost more and we’re still going to suffer the tragic consequences of our failures — but we won’t. Classes start in a month, and my university still plans on opening, and I’m going to have to teach in-person labs, and students will still be moving into the dorms, and will still be gathering in the cafeterias for meals as a group, and will probably still be heading out to the bar for quarter taps on Thursday nights. It’s madness. If the University of Minnesota had asked me, I would have told them to slam on the brakes right now, refuse to enable the massing of students in one place, and teach online classes only for a year. The summer of 2021 would be the time to discuss cautiously reopening fully, but only if the pandemic was under control.
Nobody asked me. I was only told to prepare a plan for a limited reopening, not asked whether we should open at all.
At least I’m not a Birx making happy-clappy PowerPoints to show how everything is going to be just fine. When I’m feeling optimistic, I put the chances of me being dead within a year at about 10%.