News and Commentary

Dr. Birx: ‘Nothing From CDC I Can Trust’
Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator, speaks while U.S. President Donald Trump, left, listens during a Coronavirus Task Force news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, allowing the government to boost production of masks and protective equipment. Europe surpassed China in the number of coronavirus infections. Photographer:
Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dr. Deborah Birx has become one of the most familiar faces amid the pandemic sweeping the U.S., serving as the Coronavirus Response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

But it turns out she’s not a huge fan of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least according to one report.

“During a task force meeting Wednesday, a heated discussion broke out between Deborah Birx, the physician who oversees the administration’s coronavirus response, and Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” The Washington Post reported over the weekend.

“Birx and others were frustrated with the CDC’s antiquated system for tracking virus data, which they worried was inflating some statistics — such as mortality rate and case count — by as much as 25 percent, according to four people present for the discussion or later briefed on it. Two senior administration officials said the discussion was not heated.

“‘There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust,’ Birx said, according to two of the people.”

The conflict came shortly after an internal government model, based on data from the CDC and other agencies, projected the daily death count would rise to 3,000 by June 1. Birx has taken issue with that projection, saying in a statement to The Post: “Mortality is slowly declining each day. To keep with this trend, it is essential that seniors and those with comorbidities shelter in place and that we continue to protect vulnerable communities.”

She’s right, at least according to A graph on the website shows the death rate since May 6, when the daily deaths hit 2,528. On May 7, there were 2,129 deaths; on May 8, 1,687; on May 9, 1,422; and on May 10, just 750.

Birx’s criticism came after the CDC widened its criteria for what constitutes a “coronavirus” death.

“If COVID–19 played a role in the death, this condition should be specified on the death certificate. In many cases, it is likely that it will be the [underlying cause of death], as it can lead to various life-threatening conditions, such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS),” CDC guidelines from last month said.

“In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID–19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.’ In these instances, certifiers should use their best clinical judgement in determining if a COVID–19 infection was likely. However, please note that testing for COVID–19 should be conducted whenever possible,” said the CDC.

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