Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, insisted to the Trump administration that the coronavirus pandemic would soon slow down, comparing the U.S. to Italy and its experience with the virus, The New York Times revealed in a damning report published Saturday.
Birx believed that the U.S. would see a peak in cases, followed by a slow and lasting decline, just as Italy has seen, the Times reported.
Her optimistic take on models assessing the virus apparently encouraged President Donald Trump to put pressure on states to relax regulations meant to slow the spread of the virus in mid-April, the Times reported.
The paper interviewed more than two dozen administration officials and reviewed emails and documents to uncover how the White House handled its response to the spread of COVID-19.
Birx reportedly began describing the government’s response to the pandemic as “putting out the embers,” and the White House task force was convinced that another surge in infections wouldn’t happen until the fall, senior administration officials told the Times.
But Birx’s predictions were wrong.
According to the Times’ analysis, Birx’s assumption did not take into account states’ efforts to reopen prematurely.
Arizona reopened some businesses in early May, and the state’s number of average daily cases more than doubled.
Despite the surge in cases, Trump and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany continue using the phrasing that Birx reportedly used to describe the surges.
In late June, McEnany told reporters at a press briefing that the administration was “aware there are embers that need to be put out,” arguing that the U.S. was “uniquely equipped” to handle the increase in cases over the summer.
In an interview on Sunday, Trump described the current rise in cases as “burning embers” and “flames,” though he maintained that it was “under control.”
Trump also said that the virus and pandemic would just “disappear.”
“I’ll be right eventually,” Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace Sunday. “You know, I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ And I’ll be right.”
Trump made similar false predictions in February, saying that the virus would “miraculously” go away by April and that the virus is “going to disappear … like a miracle.”
The U.S. has so far had 3.7 million cases and 140,000 deaths, the most known cases of COVID-19 in the world, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
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