Dr. Birx is at odds with Trump on testing in behind-the-scenes call with governors: report

Dr. Birx is at odds with Trump on testing in behind-the-scenes call with governors: report
President Donald J. Trump listens as White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Deborah Birx delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 16, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
News & Politics

Like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx typically chooses her words carefully when discussing President Donald Trump and his response to the coronavirus crisis. Birx has avoided directly criticizing the president, but it isn’t hard to read between the lines and see how much she disagrees with him at times. And this week, journalists Eric Banco and Sam Stein report in the Daily Beast, Birx is privately stressing the need for more coronavirus testing — a message at odds with Trump's preferences.

According to Banco and Stein, Birx “told the nation’s governors in a call Monday that it was vital that they ramp up testing to find asymptomatic individuals to prevent further community spread. Her remarks stood in stark contrast to those by the president at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma over the weekend — and the days since — in which he said he had asked his team to slow-walk testing initiatives so as not to inflate the country’s official case count.”

The Beast, Banco and Stein report, has obtained a recording of Birx’s conversation with those governors. And Birx — who, like Fauci, is part of Trump’s coronavirus task force — was quite emphatic about her desire to see more testing, not less.

“Hopefully, I have left you with the impression that increased testing is good,” Birx told the governors. “We would like to even see it even more. Identifying cases early, including your asymptomatic (ones), will really help us protect the elderly and the additional people with comorbidities.”

According to Banco and Stein, Birx “said her team had collected data that suggests an uptick in cases in people between the ages of 18 and 35, and that state officials should continue to test that population to better contain the virus and to ensure hospitalizations and deaths do not spike.” And Birx asked them to increase testing in nursing homes and among Latinos.

Some of Trump’s allies, including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, have claimed that he was merely joking when he told the crowd in Tulsa that he asked the White House to “slow the testing down.” But on Tuesday morning, Trump told CBS News’ Wija Jiang, “I don’t kid.”

On Tuesday, Fauci addressed the need for more COVID-19 testing when he testified at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing and told the Committee that he had never been asked to slow down the amount of testing. Others who testified included Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Assistant Health Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir — both of whom also testified that they had never been asked to slow down or halt coronavirus testing.

During Birx’s phone conversation with the governors, Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak was critical of Trump and told Vice President Mike Pence, “The president’s comment Saturday night as it related to his order to slow down the testing is certainly not helping. We are doing everything we can in Nevada to increase our testing and increase the availability of our testing.”

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