White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Deborah Birx has resigned after it emerged she hosted a Thanksgiving gathering.
Deborah Birx, 64, cited the criticism she had faced for a family get-together over Thanksgiving in Delaware in her decision to step aside.
She said: “This experience has been a bit overwhelming.
“It’s been very difficult on my family.”
Dr. Birx had reportedly been seeking a job from President-elect Joe Biden.
A world-renowned AIDS researcher, Deborah Birx has worked in the US government since the Reagan administration.
In December 22, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted President Donald Trump’s good wishes, saying he “has great respect for Dr. Birx and likes her very much. We wish her well”.
In an interview with Newsy aired on December 22, a masked Dr. Birx did not specify when she would stand down, but said she would help the incoming Biden administration and “and then I will retire”.
Dr. Birx had urged Americans in the days before Thanksgiving to restrict gatherings to “your immediate household”.
But it emerged on December 20 she had travelled from Washington to one of her other properties, on Fenwick Island in Delaware, where she was joined by three generations of her family from two households.
While in Delaware, Dr. Birx did an interview with CBS in which she noted that some Americans had “made mistakes” over Thanksgiving by travelling and they “should assume they were infected”.
The CDC, whose director has often joined Dr. Birx on the podium during briefings, has warned Americans not to travel over the holidays.
As the US coronavirus caseload surges, the CDC has also cautioned against indoor gatherings with people from different households.
Dr. Birx had insisted she went to the property in Delaware to prepare it for a potential sale, though she acknowledged sharing a meal with her family during the visit.
Explaining her decision to gather with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, Deborah Birx told Newsy: “My daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months.
“They’ve become deeply depressed as I’m sure many elderly have as they’ve not been able to see their sons, their granddaughters.
“My parents have not been able to see their surviving son for over a year. These are all very difficult things.”
According to the Associated Press, Deborah Birx owns another home in Potomac, Maryland, where her parents live, and where she visits from time to time.
Asked how long the emergency will
last, President Trump said: “People
are talking about July, August, something like that, so it could be right in
that period of time where I say, it washes through.”
The president continued: “They think August, could be July,
could be longer than that.”
He said he was not considering a
national curfew or lockdown, though added:
“We may look at certain areas, certain hot spots as they call them.”
President Trump said he had not yet
decided to close the US-Canada border, but told reporters it was something the
administration was considering.
He also addressed issues of testing,
as the US has been criticized for lagging far behind smaller countries in
getting tests out to the states.
Officials said on March 16 that a
million tests were currently available and more would be coming this week.
“A lot of testing has been going on,” President Trump said, though he also noted that those
without symptoms should not get the test.
“Not everybody should run out and get the test, but
we’re able to handle tremendous numbers.”
Health officials also said they are
due to add 30 million masks to the US supply and are shipping out gear and
health workers to bolster local testing efforts.
Asked how he would score his
administration’s response to the crisis on a scale of one to 10, President
Trump said: “I’d rate it a 10. I
think we’ve done a great job.”
White House coronavirus response coordinator
Dr. Deborah Birx, who joined the president, issued an appeal directly to
millennials, asking them to limit social contact.
She said: “They are the core people that will stop this virus.
“We really want people to be separated.”
Dr. Birx also warned against
socializing even if people feel well.
She said: “We know that there is a large group of infected people who are
asymptomatic, who continue to spread the virus.”
VP Mike Pence, who is leading the
coronavirus taskforce, told reporters he had not been tested yet.
He said: “I’m in regular consultation with the White House physician and he said I’ve not been exposed to anyone for any period of time that has had the coronavirus and that my wife and I have had no symptoms.”
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