CNN video screenshot. From August.

The day before the election (that would be yesterday, or Monday, since time has ceased to have meaning), Dr. Deborah Birx circulated a private memo to White House and health agency officials warning that the USA is "entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality." The memo is in direct contradiction of Donald Trump's favorite lie in the closing weeks of the campaign, which is that America is "rounding the corner" on the coronavirus pandemic, which he keeps insisting will go away, even as new cases are getting close to 100,000 a day.

Or maybe there's no contradiction at all, since graphs of the sharp rise in cases over the past month definitely shows we're turning one hell of a corner.

Graph showing record rise in new COVID-19 cases. Text: "The United States is struggling to keep the virus under control, as new cases are reported each day. Gray bars represent the number of new cases reported each day. The dashed red line shows the seven-day moving average" Graph and text: CNN

So cheer up! In geological time, the pandemic, and all of human history, is a mere blip.


Birx's memo also pushed back against another of Trump's cherished (and bullshit) false choices, explaining patiently,

This is not about lockdowns — it hasn't been about lockdowns since March or April. It's about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.

The Washington Post notes that the memo consistently

contradicts Trump on numerous points: While the president holds large campaign events with hundreds of attendees, most without masks, she explicitly warns against them. While the president blames rising cases on more testing, she says testing is "flat or declining" in many areas where cases are rising.

Compared to Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom Trump wants to fire for not clapping loudly enough to activate the fairy dust that would bring his campaign back to life, Birx has generally tried to avoid disagreeing with the Great Man in public, but the leak of this memo probably means she'll be shitcanned following the election, regardless of its outcome.

The Post reports that, according to anonymous insiders, Birx's reports on the pandemic have taken an "increasingly dire tone" even prior to yesterday's memo, but that her warnings haven't made any impression on Trump, who only has eyes for the "herd immunity" happy talk of his new pandemic guru, radiologist Scott Atlas, who has no expertise in public health or infectious disease. Nonetheless, Birx remains, at least on the org chart, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force.

The Post points out that Birx has been "frustrated" with the influence Atlas has over Trump, and has "challenged his views in task force meetings, suggesting that reopening society without any restrictions would lead to thousands of deaths."

Monday's report, the Post reports, lays out several things the administration should be doing to control the spread of the virus, none of which involve shutting down the country:

Sounding a similar theme to past reports, it calls for "much more aggressive action from messaging, to testing, to surging personnel around the country before the crisis point."

What is "essential at this time point," the report said, is "consistent messaging about uniform use of masks, physical distancing and hand washing with profound limitation on indoor gatherings especially with family and friends."

It adds: "This is about empowerment [sic] Americans with the knowledge and data for decision-making to prevent community spread and save lives."

And like other reports by Birx, this one takes pains to note that the increasing rates of infection have nothing to do with how many tests are being administered, another of Trump's most beloved lies. In fact, the rate of testing has largely been flat, so the increasing number of cases suggests

"community spread is much worse than is evident by current [measurements]."

An earlier, Oct. 17 report sounded the same theme: It cited increasing daily hospital admissions, rising fatalities and emergency room visits, and bluntly stated, "this is not due to increased testing but broad and ever increasing community spread."

That report added these words highlighted in bold: "There is an absolute necessity of the Administration to use this moment to ask the American people to wear masks, physical distance and avoid gatherings in both public and private spaces." On that day, Trump held two large rallies, according to his public schedule, one in Michigan and one in Wisconsin.

And yes, of course Trump plans to hold an indoor party at the White House tonight to watch election returns with 300 to 400 people who will tell him he won and not make too much fuss if they test positive later.

With nobody listening to her in the White House, Birx has taken to traveling to coronavirus hot spots around the country. Saturday, she and CDC Director Robert Redfield met with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, and yesterday, she was in Colorado to meet with Gov. Jared Polis. In both states, Birx emphasized that, for the next few weeks, people should avoid socializing with others outside their immediate household, and no, that doesn't mean inviting friends from across town to come spread the virus in your home. The New York Times notes that last week, Birx and other White House health officials traveled to North Dakota, where she personally scolded residents for not wearing masks.

"Over the last 24 hours, as we were here and we were in your grocery stores and in your restaurants and frankly even in your hotels, this is the least use of masks that we have seen in retail establishments of any place we have been," she told reporters during the visit, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

And then they probably all went out and licked doorknobs. That'll learn her to lecture them.

[WaPo / CNN / KSTU-TV / Gov. Jared Polis / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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