5 Takeaways From CNN's 'COVID War' Special with Fauci, Birx, Redfield, Hahn, Giroir, Kadlec

Six medical experts who have played a central role in America's response to the COVID pandemic have opened up about their experiences of trying to contain the disease while working under the former Donald Trump administration.

First-hand accounts of how the government and health agencies reacted to the novel coronavirus as it surfaced in China and swept across the nation were given to CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and aired at 9 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

The special—named COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out—was recorded following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, CNN said.

The segment included interviews with infectious disease experts Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, who each held advisory positions in the former administration.

It also featured Dr. Robert Kadlec, disaster response official at the Department of Health and Human Services, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, Health and Human Services assistant secretary Dr. Brett Giroir and ex-director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Robert Redfield.

Here are five headlines from the segment you need to know:

Former CDC boss believes COVID may have started in a lab

Dr. Redfield, who led the CDC under Trump, told CNN he personally believes that COVID may have originated inside a Chinese laboratory—a stance that has long been voiced by conspiracy theorists but rejected by the wider scientific community.

Dr. Redfield said that COVID could have "escaped" from a laboratory—perhaps even by accident. He told CNN: "If I was to guess, this virus started transmitting somewhere in September, October in Wuhan. That's my own feeling. And only opinion.

"I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped. Other people don't believe that. That's fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It's not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker."

A joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and China focused on the origins of COVID recently suggested that there was no evidence for the lab origin theory.

Birx suggests some U.S. COVID deaths were avoidable

Dr. Birx told CNN hundreds of thousands of lives that were claimed following the first surge of COVID in the U.S. could possibly have been reduced by earlier preventative steps. There have now been over 546,000 COVID deaths in the country.

She said: "When you look at your data now and you think, 'OK, had we mitigated earlier, had we actually paused earlier and actually done it'—how much of an impact do you think that would have made? I look at it this way—the first time we have an excuse.

"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."

Fauci criticizes China's record on transparency

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who remains a central figure of President Biden's COVID response, told CNN that China's lack of transparency about diseases was an issue.

Fauci said: "I always had skepticism about it because of what we went through with SARS... the Chinese are saying, 'oh, it's flu, it's flu' and then the next thing you know, that SARS was all over the world in Canada and Australia, all over the place.

"So they are not very transparent in the past. It wasn't outright lying, they just didn't give you all the information." He said "so much information" could have been gained with a trip to China and discussions with the Chinese scientists combating the outbreak.

Fauci says Trump's tweets were shocking

Dr. Fauci singled out a series of tweets posted by Donald Trump in April 2020, when the former president suggested the people should "liberate" Democrat-led states.

At the time, Trump had tweeted "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" and "LIBERATE VIRGINIA," seemingly referencing the economic impact of response tactics intended to limit the spread of the disease, such as stay-at-home orders.

Fauci said: "The thing that hit me like a punch to the chest was then all of a sudden he got up and says 'liberate Virginia, liberate Michigan,' and I said to myself, 'oh my goodness, what is going on here.' It shocked me because it was such a jolt to what we were trying to do." Anti-lockdown protests occurred in all three of the states.

Birx details a 'very uncomfortable' call with Trump

Dr. Birx detailed a "very difficult" phone call she had with former president Trump after she appeared on CNN and gave an update about the spread of COVID.

She said: "That was a very difficult time, because everybody in the White House was upset with that interview and the clarity that I brought about the epidemic. I got called by the President. It was very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult to hear."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx
Dr. Anthony Fauci (L), director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks next to Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx, during a meeting with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on April 29, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images