In closed-door congressional testimony earlier this month, Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, claimed the death toll from the virus in 2020 would have been substantially less dramatic had President Trump heeded her advice about stricter mitigation measures. “I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30 percent less to 40 percent less range,” Birx told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Birx retired in December 2020 after she violated her own holiday coronavirus guidance by gathering with several family members at her Delaware vacation home the day after Thanksgiving.
Birx also took aim at Dr. Scott Atlas, a Stanford radiologist and early critic of Birx’s harsh and unscientific approach to containing the virus. Trump brought Atlas on board in August 2020; Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci immediately clashed with Atlas. “I was constantly raising the alert in the doctors’ meetings of the depth of my concern about Dr. Atlas’ position, Dr. Atlas’ access, Dr. Atlas’ theories and hypothesis, and the depths and breadths of my concern,” Birx testified.
In an email to American Greatness on Wednesday morning, Atlas responded to Birx’s attack:
“As a health policy scholar for 17 years and a medical scientist for more than 25 years, I was asked to help the country during the biggest health crisis in a century. I recommended policies as an advisor to the White House designed to reduce both the spread of the infection to the vulnerable and the harms of the policies themselves to those impacted the most— – low-income families, the working class of America and our children.
It is not a surprise that Dr. Birx, as the official Task Force Coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force from late February, 2020 through January 19, 2021, might want to blame others for the failure of her policies. As Task Force Coordinator, she held the authority over the official federal advice on medical policy. Birx officially represented the White House and the Task Force to dozens of states, meeting with governors and local authorities and appearing on media on dozens of visits. She personally detailed the state of the pandemic at all Task Force meetings and at the COVID meetings attended by the President’s top advisors. Throughout my time in Washington, Dr. Birx composed in writing and communicated all recommendations from the Task Force to every state. I visited only one state, Florida, during my time in Washington.
It is an Orwellian attempt to rewrite history to blame those who criticized the lockdowns that were widely implemented for the failure of the lockdowns that were widely implemented. The policy recommendations of Dr. Birx as Coordinator of the White House Task Force were implemented by governors throughout nearly the entire nation during 2020. Those policies failed to stop the dying, failed to stop the infection from spreading, and inflicted massive health damage and destruction, particularly on working class and lower-income families and on our children. History’s biggest failure of public health policy lies directly at the hands of those who recommended the lockdowns and those who implemented them, not on those who advised otherwise. Period.
The claim that I advised the President at any point in my time in Washington to “let the infection spread widely without mitigation to achieve herd immunity” is false. I never advised the President, the Task Force, or anyone else while in Washington to allow the virus to spread. Dozens of my writings and interviews during my Washington service explicitly called for specific mitigations, including social distancing, extra hygiene, and masks when not able to socially distance, and “focused protection”, a heightened protection of those at risk, to allow a safe opening and end the public health destruction from lockdowns.”
Scott W. Atlas, MD
Robert Wesson Senior Fellow in Health Policy