Deborah Birx Bemoans Americans 'Parroting Back' Trump's Anti-Mask Messaging as COVID Surge Intensifies

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, expressed concern over Americans "parroting back" the anti-masking and disregard for social distancing from the Trump administration amid the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the president has repeatedly downplayed the threat from the novel virus and often flouted the guidelines put forward by public health officials. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to have the highest number of infections and deaths due to COVID-19 of any country in the world. As of Sunday morning, more than 14.6 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 while more than 281,000 have died.

The virus is surging nationwide, with more than 101,000 Americans currently hospitalized. Intensive care units have been filling up nationwide, as the country now averages more than 190,000 new COVID-19 infections per day and more than 2,000 daily deaths.

The Quote

During an interview with NBC News' Meet the Press on Sunday morning, Birx was asked about Trump's response to the pandemic. Host Chuck Todd queried whether the president and others within his administration choosing to "flout" the public health guidelines sends a problematic message to the American people.

"I hear community members parroting back those situations, parroting back that masks don't work, parroting back that we should work towards herd immunity, parroting back that gatherings don't result in super-spreading events. And I think our job is to constantly say those are myths," Birx responded.

NEW: Dr. Deborah Birx dispels misinformation around Covid risks, says “our job is to constantly say, ‘those are myths.’” #MTP

“It is frustrating because not only do we know what works, governors and mayors used those tools to stem the tide in the spring and the summer.”

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 6, 2020

"They are wrong, and you can see the evidence base. And right now, across the Sun Belt, we have governors and mayors who have cases equivalent to what they had in the summertime—yet aren't putting in the same policies and mitigations that they put in the summer, that they know changed the course of this pandemic across the South," she said. "So it is frustrating because not only do we know what works, governors and mayors used those tools to stem the tide in the spring and the summer."

The public health official urged Americans to take the pandemic seriously.

"This is not just the worst public health event. This is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side," she said. "Yet, we know what behaviors spread the virus and we know how to change those behaviors to stop spreading the virus."

Why It Matters

Despite the advice of health officials within his own administration, Trump has been dismissive of mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines. In the final months of his unsuccessful re-election campaign, the president held numerous large crowded rallies—many of them indoors. Although masks were recommended at these events, many attendees often chose not to wear them. The president has repeatedly voiced support for anti-mask and anti-lockdown protesters as well.

In an interview recorded by journalist Bob Woodward in March, Trump admitted that he intentionally misled the public about the seriousness of the pandemic. "I wanted to always play it down," he said. "I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic."

Deborah Birx
White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks during a press briefing at the White House on November 19 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Opposing View

Those opposing masks and social distancing guidelines generally argue that such regulations violate Americans' personal freedoms. They say that the government should not interfere in individuals' personal lives and prevent them from holding gatherings or covering their faces. Trump and his supporters have also pointed to the president's efforts to support the rapid development of vaccines for COVID-19, arguing that he has acted in an unprecedented way to bring the pandemic to an end.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.