Dr. Deborah Birx Wins Susan Collins Award For Most Seriously Troubled During A Global Crisis

Dr. Deborah Birx is doing her best to manage the COVID-19 crisis, but the president is an idiot and (most) Republican governors aren't much better. You could see the pain in her scarves as she made the Sunday show rounds. Chris Wallace at Fox News asked Dr. Birx about the states that are “reopening" despite not meeting the White House standard of at least a two-week decline in new coronavirus cases.

WALLACE: Are you concerned about this patchwork reopening? Why leave it up to the governors? Why not set a firm if not binding national policy on when states can reopen?

DR. BIRX: I think federal guidelines are a pretty firm policy.

She suppressed a laugh when she answered, which is an adorably passive aggressive way of saying she thought Wallace's question was stupid-pants.

DR. BIRX: We also made it possible for states to open counties independently of the entire state.

But that's crazy when we live in the age of the horseless carriage. It's not a days-long trek from a locked-down city to a now-hopping small town. But this version of “The Oregon Trail" game results in people dying from coronavirus instead of cholera.

Dr. Birx reacts to Michigan protestors, talks remdesivir effectivenesswww.youtube.com

DR. BIRX: We also made it very clear to the American people, this is what you need to continue to do to protect yourself. You need to continue to social distance. You need to continue to practice scrupulous handwashing. You need to know where ... your hands have been and what they have touched. Make sure you don't touch your face.

During the 1990s, I followed similar guidelines whenever I visited the Tunnel nightclub in New York. It's less helpful advice during a global pandemic if people are packing restaurants, movie theaters, and beaches. There is no full-body COVID-19 condom that can protect you from the recklessness of others.

Dr. Birx stressed that if you have a coexisting condition or are otherwise at risk, you should continue sheltering in place. This is frustrating because who does she think is serving people margaritas on Cinco de Mayo? COVID-19 is slapping the shit out of black and Latino Americans, many of whom suffer from the chronic conditions that Dr. Birx claims should keep them at home. But when states or towns prematurely open up, minorities have to choose between their health and their livelihoods. This is cruel and dangerous.

Wallace pointed out that it sends a “mixed message" if governors are dismissing the federal guidelines and opening up businesses willy nilly. He played a clip where Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that states that ignored the phased approach were risking a rebound. He asked Dr. Birx again if she agreed with her Brad Pitt-lookalike colleague that a “patchwork reopening" wasn't ideal. She literally blinked twice, as if requesting help, before dropping more talking points.

DR. BIRX: We made it very clear that the guidelines are based on very strong evidence and data ... We want to make sure every individual, employer, and every person knows how to keep themselves safe in this situation. We've made it clear what the gating criteria is.

Who's “we"? Donald Trump is the president, and he's praised governors who ignore the guidelines while denouncing the ones who do. Dr. Birx seems to think it's enough to keep saying “fire is bad" while the president celebrates people playing with matches. Wallace kept asking Dr. Birx if certain actions were “safe" and she held out better than Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man.

Is It Safe? - Marathon Man (4/8) Movie CLIP (1976) HDwww.youtube.com

Wallace showed Dr. Birx videos of people ignoring social distancing guidelines at beaches and beauty parlors. She struggled to keep a straight face while insisting that it's OK to go to the park or beach if you social distance, even though people are acting like they never heard of a coronavirus.

WALLACE: If both sides, both parties [during a massage or haircut] are wearing a mask, is that safe?

DR. BIRX: It's safer.

Sweet Christ.

DR. BIRX: But we've made it clear that that is not a good Phase 1 activity. And I think the president made that clear when he discussed the case in Georgia.

Yeah, Trump gave a little “naughty! naughty!" to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp before later suggesting that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should negotiate with anti-lockdown terrorists. He's not an effective messenger on this subject.

Wallace confronted Dr. Birx with footage of protesters in close quarters demanding their haircuts. He asked her if these demonstrations were safe.

DR. BIRX:It's devastatingly worrisome to me, personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition, and they have a serious or a very unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives. So, we need to protect each other at the same time we're voicing our discontent.

It's weird that she focuses on the protesters' grandparents, because I think that diminishes how infectious the disease is. The reason we have stay-at-home orders and not stay-away-from-grandma orders is that even the strangers they encounter in public spaces are at risk. You also can't tell if someone has a “comorbid condition" from looking at them.

What's "devastatingly worrisome" is that Dr. Birx is so afraid of the president's wrath she can't state without qualification that the “patchwork reopening" is a public health hazard. There's no medical benefit to playing “both sides" with COVID-19.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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