'Aggressive Action' is Needed for COVID-19 Response, Birx Warns

Carolyn Crist

November 03, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Deborah Birx, MD, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned White House officials on Monday that the Trump administration needs to take "much more aggressive action" to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post.

"We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic," she wrote in the memo. "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."

Birx outlined several major points that contradict President Donald Trump's recent messages that the U.S. is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic. She warned against holding large campaign events with hundreds of attendees, particularly when most don't wear masks. She added that the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country isn't due to an increase in testing but an increase in community spread.

"Cases are rapidly rising in nearly 30 percent of all USA counties, the highest number of county hotspots we have seen with this pandemic," according to the memo. "Half of the United States is in the red or orange zone for cases despite flat or declining testing."

However, the White House communications office disputed the report, saying that the administration has increased the national supply of personal protective equipment and bought 150 million COVID-19 tests, The Post reported.  The administration is working to "safely rush therapeutics" and develop vaccines, Alyssa Farah, the White House communications director, told the newspaper.

Birx has been sending "urgent" messages like this for weeks, an administration official told The Post. Another official said Birx feels "like she's being ignored," particularly as Trump has been leaning on his new medical adviser Scott Atlas, who has suggested that herd immunity is the way to solve the pandemic.

Birx emphasized that it's "essential at this time point" to provide consistent messaging around wearing face masks, following social distancing guidelines, handwashing and limiting indoor gatherings with family and friends. In an Oct. 17 report, she highlighted the same message and discussed surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations, emergency room visits and deaths.

"There is an absolute necessity of the Administration to use this moment," the report emphasized in bold font, "to ask the American people to wear masks, physical distance and avoid gatherings in both public and private spaces."


Washington Post, "Top Trump adviser bluntly contradicts president on covid-19 threat, urging all-out response."