Birx Estimates Trump Admin Could Have Prevented 30 to 40 Percent of COVID Deaths

The Trump administration's former coronavirus advisor, Dr. Deborah Birx, estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the 738,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented had the White House taken necessary steps to curb the spread of the virus.

In a closed-door testimony conducted by the House Select Coronavirus Subcommittee on October 12 and 13, Birx testified that more than 130,000 American lives could have been saved if the administration promoted mask-wearing and social distancing in the early days of the pandemic.

"I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30 percent less to 40 percent less range," Birx said, according to excerpts shared by the committee.

Asked whether former President Donald Trump did everything he could have to handle the pandemic, Birx said, "No, and I've said that to the White House in general, and I believe I was very clear to the president in specifics of what I needed him to do."

Deborah Birx COVID Death Trump Administration
Former White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx believes the Trump administration could have prevented 30 to 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Above, Birx speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House on November 19, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Stringer

The former health official also accused Trump's team of being "distracted" from the national COVID-19 response, turning their efforts to campaigning for the 2020 election instead.

Birx said that because no one was at the White House, the White House's COVID-19 task force did not hold regular meetings.

"They were actively campaigning and not as present in the White House as previously," she testified.

"I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season, and I wanted to make sure that as soon as everyone was back the day after the election, that people would comprehensively reengage," she added.

Since leaving the administration in January, Birx has expressed regret over how she handled her role as one of Trump's top health advisers and has alleged that senior administration officials censored her warnings on the severity of the pandemic.

However, during Birx's time with the Trump administration, she often praised the former president for his understanding of pandemic data and advised top officials that the COVID-19 situation had improved by April and May of 2020.

In her remarks to the House panel, Birx also slammed Dr. Scott Atlas, a Trump adviser who advocated for herd immunity, saying she had repeatedly raised issues with Atlas' guidance.

"I was constantly raising the alert in the doctors' meetings of the depth of my concern about Dr. Atlas' position, Dr. Atlas' access, Dr. Atlas' theories and hypothesis, and the depths and breadths of my concern," Birx said. "I made it clear that I would not attend meetings where he would be present kind of to create a line in the sand."

The subcommittee's chairman, Representative James Clyburn, said Birx's interview shed light on why the Trump administration's COVID-19 response was at times confusing and contradictory.

"President Trump's prioritization of politics, contempt for science, and refusal to follow the advice of public health experts undermined the nation's ability to respond effectively to the coronavirus crisis," Clyburn said in a statement. "The Trump White House's prioritization of election year politics over the pandemic response—even as cases surged last fall—is among the worst failures of leadership in American history."