Let's Meet Trump's COVID-19 Testing Czar, Who Doesn't Play Well With Others
The Washington Post ran a fun story Monday about Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, who's serving as the Trump administration's top mucky-muck for fixing the nation's coronavirus testing shortage. You know, if there is a shortage at all, and anyway it's the states' responsibility, so maybe he doesn't actually have to do anything.
The newsiest part of the story details his sudden departure from a job that Giroir likes to tout as his top qualification for fixing health system problems. Seems that a few years ago, Giroir was abruptly shitcanned from his job at Texas A&M University, where he had been working on developing an advanced medical manufacturing facility that would be able to churn out vast quantities of vaccines rapidly in case of a pandemic.
He once said that his vaccine effort was so vital that "the fate of 50 million people will rely on us getting this done."
But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired. His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M, the local newspaper reported, said he was "more interested in promoting yourself" than the health science center where he worked. He got low marks on being a "team player."
Very. Best. People.
As Trump's "Testing Czar," Giroir is supposedly in charge of ending the national shortage of test kits, which will be needed if the country is supposed to be reopening for business. Governors are pretty upset for some reason that the federal government hasn't does fuck-all so far to ramp up the production of tests. People who worked with Giroir in Texas said very nice things about him, like how he's super ragey and brags a lot, but is also at least minimally competent, so you go, Brett!
Robin Robinson, who as the director of the federal Biological Advanced Research and Development Authority oversaw a major grant for the Texas vaccine project, said in an interview that Giroir "over-promised and under-delivered." He said, "I always had a good relationship with Brett. I know he has a temper and he sometimes has a very difficult time controlling it."
Still, Robinson, like other former associates interviewed for this report, said that he has confidence in Giroir and praised Trump's decision to pick Giroir for the job informally known as the nation's virus testing czar.
"He does get things done," Robinson said. "Sometimes it's a little different than what one might expect. But I feel confident that he will do the job where he is right now."
The Post says that in two recent interviews, Giroir explained that his sudden departure from Texas A&M was all due to academic politics, and that he is totally the good guy here because unlike those lowdown snakes, he had an ounce of integrity, though he couldn't go into detail, too dangerous, man, too dangerous:
"If you're not familiar with academic politics, it makes politics in Washington look like a minor league scrimmage," he said. He said he was "heartbroken" to leave the position before his work was done, but he said that the vaccine projects have proved valuable — and might contribute to the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
As for the evaluation, Giroir, 59, said, "I'm a team player. But not to people who act inappropriately, who are misogynistic and who are abusive to other people. I don't have a loyalty to that. I have a loyalty to my faculty and my students. And that's what I care about. . . . It's better to be independent and stand your ethical ground." Asked to explain his comment, he said, "I'll just leave it at that."
Well gosh, we bet he's sure glad he's finally found a workplace where there's absolutely no tolerance for misogyny or abusive treatment of staff.
Giroir has certainly made a huge impression on the nation's governors with his strong leadership on testing, or he would if they weren't just such partisan monsters who blame the national government for not addressing the national testing shortfall. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week said on his brother Chris's CNN show that he didn't know Giroir:
Asked by his brother about the man "in charge of the most important component" of dealing with the virus, the governor responded: "I'll take your word that he exists, but I wouldn't know otherwise."
A Giroir spokeswoman said he has been on task-force calls to governors. A spokesman for the New York governor did not respond to a request for comment.
Giroir told the Post, regarding governors' complaints that there still aren't enough tests, that anybody who "needs a test" can absolutely get a test, but let's not go thinking we're all pro basketball players just yet, OK?
"That does not mean at this point in time that anyone who wants a test gets a test," Giroir said. "There may be tens of millions of people who want a test, but they really have no indication [of the virus] for that test."
Giroir does at least acknowledge that testing capacity isn't where it needs to be, saying that for a "gradual reopening" of the economy to happen, we'll need to be able to give 6 million to 8 million tests a month, compared to the current 3.5 million a month. The story is remarkably light on how Giroir plans to get there; he just says the capacity is improving, and quickly.
He also says he is absolutely not a pushover for Donald Trump, whose capacity to understand even a fraction of the science Giroir carefully almost-praised:
Publicly, Giroir has been in sync with Trump, appearing alongside him at briefings in the admiral's uniform he is entitled to wear as as head of the U.S. Health Service Commissioned Corps. In private, Giroir said, he has no hesitation about being blunt with the president.
"His scientific advisers, including me, provide him very frank advice every single day," Giroir said. "Any thought that does not happen, or he does not listen, is blatantly false. . . . It's one of the most productive working environments at a senior level I've been involved in."
We almost expected him to offer accolades for Trump's unsurpassed ability to turn toward those speaking to him and react to changes in lighting.
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.