Casual Conversation with Dr. Birx on June 7, 2022

April 2000, Deborah Birx, M.D. to Tony Fauci, Bob Redfield, and Steve Hahn:

“We’ll be lucky if we survive this.  We’re going to be hated by the right for not agreeing with the president and hated by the left for staying and trying to support as comprehensive a response as possible under an administration they loathe.  Guilt by association.”
Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late by Dr. Deborah Birx, Former White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator (HarperCollins 2022) at p. 189.

Dr. Birx, the indefatigable author of a 489-page book on her experiences protecting Americans from the ravages of the pandemic (each page of which I have read), will be our guest at a Casual Conversation on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, at 5 pm Eastern.  For those who, on the left, believed that Dr. Birx was one of them, and did so on the basis of a false and misleading NYTs article on July 18, 2000, perhaps you should read pages 261-64 of her book.   Her book plays no favorites, and praises and criticizes actions (and inactions) as she sees them:  “[P]andemics are hard to get right, and more than two years into this one, we can safely say that no one got this right—not the Trump administration and not the Biden administration.”  At page x.
I suspect that those who read the book will have eye-opening responses to a number of revelations.  Dr. Birx saves well-deserved ire for Scott Atlas, a physician but no epidemiologist who comes across as a malign figure who worked behind the scenes to prevent application of life-saving mitigation strategies from being recommended and applied at all levels of government.  (Dr. Birx explains why herd immunity is not easily calculated and depends on a host of variables.)   Atlas apparently turned Florida Governor Ron DeSantis from policies that saved lives to those that failed to prevent increased sickness and death.  (DeSantis comes in for praise later for his stockpiling of monoclonal antibodies and the Biden administration for criticism for attacking him, a decision that Dr. Birx says appears to her to be political.)
She also calls out the Council of Economic Advisors for being “intellectually dishonest, but also morally negligent.”  At page 160.  But also look to those in the WH who supported Dr. Birx and listened to what she had to say: Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Larry Kudlow.   While generally supportive of Dr. Birx, Anthony Fauci comes in for sharp criticism as inflexible and dogmatic, wanting perfect results from trials before taking action, as does the CDC, headed by Robert Redfield.  The CDC stuck with the flu model throughout this period, which meant that it only wanted to test those who were symptomatic.  The failure of the test kits was the fault of the CDC.  The CDC refused to do the simple testing that would have eliminated the idiotic refusal to say that masks worked both ways.  The CDC did not have a reporting system that would obtain the data necessary to identify those areas of greatest need and at significant risk of increased community spread.  And data is Dr. Birx’s holy grail.   And the data based on the experience of states and communities pointed in one direction: sentinel testing of asymptomatic under-35s who would turn around and infect those at greatest risk (i.e., you and me), followed by masking worn in all indoor public spaces, significant expansion of outdoor dining, reduction of indoor dining to 25-50%, and closing standing-room-only bars, the UPenn/CHOP model (later adapted to the particular circumstances of different communities).
You can read all this for yourselves by buying (or taking it out from the library) and reading her book, but whether you do or not, you most definitely should attend this Casual Conversation.  This is your health and your life at stake, and those of your friends and loved ones.   At age 66, she is definitely one of us (not “them”), and she had at risk members of her family throughout this period, including parents in the 90s, not one of whom got Covid-19.  The reviews have focused on the “juicy” revelations of Dr. Birx having a pact with Tony and Bob to resign if anyone was fired; and Dr. Birx wanting the floor to open up and swallow her when Trump spoke about ingesting disinfectant.  But those are, in the scheme of things, insignificant.  Her book’s job, in her words, was “to investigate how the response was handled and to offer recommendations for moving forward.”  At page 473.
We all have classmate Andy McLane to thank for Dr. Birx’s agreeing to speak with us.  If you want to join, usual rules apply, email me at by Friday, June 3rd, by close of business.  The session will not be recorded, so the only way to listen to Dr. Birx is to be there on June 7 with your fellow members of the Class of 1969.
Arthur Fergenson
P.S.  Dr. Birx was a Colonel in the U.S. Army, the second of our guests to have a military rank of that seniority.  Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff retired from a 25-year career as a Navy Chaplain at the equivalent rank of Captain.