No reporter is ever going to get an honest response from Dr. Deborah Birx to this question, because it would involve admitting that her boss is the one that's failed us.
August 2, 2020

I'm pretty sure CNN's Dana Bash already knows the answer to this question, but that didn't stop her from repeatedly asking Dr. Deborah Birx why the United States has failed so miserably in comparison to other countries with our response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than admit that we needed, and still need a national response to the pandemic, or a national mask mandate, or that Trump and Kushner were more interested in playing politics with the lives of U.S. citizens because they live in blue states, or that her boss has done real damage every single step of the way with their horrid response to this national emergency, Birx instead prattled along about Americans "on the move" and the fact that the pandemic has spread to rural areas now.

Tell us something we didn't know, Dr. Birx:

BASH: The U.S. recorded nearly two million new cases in July, the most cases of any month yet. So, the United States is still averaging more than 60,000 cases and 1,000 deaths per day.

And we are going to show our viewers the curve. America is not even close to controlling this, like other places, South Korea and the European Union, for example.

So, Dr. Birx, why has the U.S. failed so badly at this?

BIRX: I think there's three parts to this epidemic.

First, I think the viewers are well aware of what happened in March and April. And a series of metros went down in what we call in series, so what started in Seattle and then New York, Louisiana, and then an eruption of increased cases in Boston and Detroit and Chicago, and then moving to Philadelphia and Washington, Houston, and Dallas.

And those series of outbreaks created that curve with multiple peaks, as you show it. Each one of those individual curves looks very much like the European country curves independently.

But this was a series of metros. Throughout May, then, as cases were coming down in the metros, then a series of outbreaks across the country in long-term -- as you describe, in the Midwest, long-term care facilities, meatpacking plants, prisons. And each of those were contained by those local officials or local public health officials with testing and contact tracing into the community.

BASH: Yes.

BIRX: And so, coming into May, it was those series.

BASH: Right.

BIRX: And then, after Memorial Day, that is when we saw this explosion across the South and the West.

BASH: So, Dr. Birx, you're explaining what happened. The question that everybody out there has is, why? Why did this happen? Why was the government, particularly -- I mean, you're the coordinator for the federal response. Why weren't you able to -- to stop this from spreading and continuing to spread uncontrollably, as it is now?

BIRX: So, what I have learned in working with epidemics around the globe is, you have to really get down to the level of where the epidemic is.

That's why I have been on the road for the last three weeks to 14 states, because just talking about the gating criteria and saying that test positivity is increasing has to be joined with the reality on the ground of what people are -- experience.

I can tell you, across America right now, people are on the move. And so all of our discussions about social distancing and decreasing gatherings to under 10, as I traveled around the country, I saw all of America moving.

BASH: Mm-hmm.

BIRX: And I think it's our job, as public health officials, to be able to get a message to each American that says, if you have chosen to go on vacation into a hot spot, you really need to come back and protect those with comorbidities and assume you're infected.

We have been trying to get out the clarion call about the asymptomatic spread, which I think still Americans and public health officials really -- hard to get their hands around that, because the number of people who are spreading virus without symptoms, by the time you wait for someone to come forward to the emergency room, you have widespread community spread.

And so I think that is what we are trying to do community by community, county by county, is adapting the federal recommendations to the realities on the ground.

BASH: But -- right, Dr. Birx, and I hear you.

But it's clearly not working. I mean, we have been talking about outbreaks across the Sunbelt. You're warning now about a resurgence in states across the Midwest. In recent days, you have named 20 -- we are putting them on the screen -- 20 of the 50 states as places you're watching.

So, are we in a new phase of the pandemic? And, if so, what are you going to do to change course?

To which Birx basically responded... no. Here she is explaining that local officials are still on their own:

BIRX: I think those are two very critical questions, because we are in a new phase. And that is why I really wanted to make it clear to the American people.

It's why we started putting out governor reports directly to the health officials and the governors in every single state, because we could see that each thing had to be tailored. So, each state has a tailored set of recommendations, based on what we are seeing at the community level, what we are seeing relevant to the hospitals.

And each of these responses have to be dramatically tailored. We are beginning to see an impact from the mitigation procedures that many of the state and local officials have put into place.

But I want to be very clear. What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas.

And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus. And that is why we keep saying, no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces.

But, more importantly, if you're in multigenerational households, and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you're positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities.

This epidemic right now is different, and it's wide -- it's more widespread.

BASH: Doctor -- Doctor...

BIRX: And it's both rural and urban.

Yeah, clear as mud. As Annie Lowrey discussed in The Atlantic, the "U.S. prioritized the economy over public health—and got the worst of both worlds." How long we'll be dealing with the consequences of that failure remains to be seen.

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