Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, warned Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic has entered a “new phase,” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she has no confidence in Birx.
Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Birx said the coronavirus is much more widespread than it was months ago.
“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas,” Birx said. “To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.”
Birx told CNN that people need to keep wearing mask and distancing, and states need to take more precautions and restrict large gatherings, noting that each state needs unique, “dramatically tailored” plans. She also said that people need to understand the risks of vacationing in certain spots. “If you’ve chosen to go on vacation into a hot spot, you really need to come back and assume you’re infected,” she said.
Meanwhile, Pelosi, the California Democrat, told ABC News’ “This Week” that Birx should be doing more to refute President Donald Trump’s inaccurate remarks about the coronavirus. Unlike Dr. Anthony Fauci — who Pelosi has praised — Birx has not made a point of publicly correcting the president.
“I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee,” Pelosi told ABC News. “So I don’t have confidence there, no.”
Pelosi pointedly did not deny a report by Politico last week that said she had called Birx “the worst” in a meeting with Trump administration officials, accusing her of spreading disinformation.
Birx defended herself on CNN, saying she’s willing to stake her career on using scientific data to “save more lives,” and suggested Pelosi’s comments were in response to a New York Times report in July — which Birx has disputed — that claimed Birx was too eager to embrace overly optimistic projections about the pandemic.
The White House on Sunday decried Pelosi’s criticism.
“It is deeply irresponsible of Speaker Pelosi to repeatedly try to undermine & create public distrust in Dr Birx, the top public health professional on the coronavirus task force,” Alyssa Farah, the White House’s director of strategic communications, tweeted Sunday. “It’s also just wrong. Period. Hard stop.”
As of Sunday evening, the U.S. had more than 4.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 155,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data, both figures by far the most of any other country.