Fauci, who has been elevated to the position of chief medical adviser to the president under President Joe Biden, had words of praise for Birx’s efforts at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but nonetheless maintained that there were things she could have done differently during a CNN special report that aired Sunday evening in which the network interviewed several doctors involved with the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Birx] had an office right there in the West Wing, so I am very, very reluctant to condemn anything that [she did], even though there are people who feel she should have pushed more. She probably should have, but boy, she did a lot of good,” he said.
Birx, who repeated her claim that she was sometimes drowned out by “too many parallel streams of data” in the Trump White House, explained her decision to join the then president’s task force.
“I could see the avalanche coming, and I could see that we were not prepared, and I thought I could do something,” she said during the CNN broadcast.
Fauci and Dr. Robert Redfield, who served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the start of the pandemic, both criticized China for not allowing U.S. scientists to enter the country and study COVID-19 before the disease became widespread.
“I think if we had sent our people into Wuhan and [they were] able to talk to the China scientists, … you could’ve gotten so much information. Right from the get-go, they would have told us, ‘Don’t believe what you’re reading. This is spread asymptomatically, it spreads highly efficiently, and it’s killing people,'” Fauci said.
Redfield, who repeated his opinion that the pathogen likely escaped from a Wuhan laboratory, called U.S. scientists’ ability to study the disease one year after the pathogen first began spreading throughout the globe a “little delayed.”
“It seems to me that some of the information is people are not being transparent about it. I could use the word ‘cover-up,’ but I don’t know that, so I’m not going to speculate that,” he added.
The refusal to allow U.S. scientists to enter China may have contributed to the wide spread of COVID-19 because the disease was not as fully understood as it could have been, the doctors added. Birx argued that hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been prevented if policies enacted after COVID-19’s initial surge in the United States reflected scientists’ growing understanding of the disease.
“There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially if we took the lessons we had learned from that moment,” she said. “That’s what bothers me every day.”
Since Trump departed office, Fauci has been celebrated by the Biden administration while Birx has largely retreated from public view, joining the private sector in dual roles at the Bush Institute and ActivePure Technology, an air purifier maker. Redfield now serves as an adviser to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
The coronavirus has infected more than 30 million people in the U.S., and more than 500,000 deaths nationwide were attributed to the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.