Dr Birx travelled over the thanksgiving period despite her own guidance not to

White House coronavirus task force member denied travelling ‘for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving’

James Crump
Monday 21 December 2020 13:10 GMT
Dr Birx said the vaccine is 'critical' to ending the pandemic but it won't 'save us' from the impending Covid-19 surge

White House coronavirus task force member Dr Deborah Birx travelled and saw family members on the day after Thanksgiving, despite advising Americans to be “vigilant” during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Birx, 64, travelled to Delaware on the day after Thanksgiving, and spent time with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement to the AP, Dr Birx said that the people at the gathering were all a part of her “immediate household”, but they do not all share a home.

Dr Birx said that she travelled to Delaware to oversee a potential house sale and did not gather with her family “for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving.”

However, the AP reported that Dr Birx did share a meal with the family members during her visit to Delaware.

Leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, Dr Birx was one of several high-profile health officials who urged US citizens to avoid travelling, in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“It looked like things were starting to improve in our northern plain states, and now with Thanksgiving, we're worried that all of that will be reversed,” Dr Birx told CBS News’ Face the Nation in November.

She said that people should “take it upon yourself to be restrictive” about how they travel and spend their time during the Thanksgiving period.

Dr Birx added: “If your family travelled, you have to assume that you were exposed and you became infected and you really need to get tested in the next week.”

The Independent has contacted the White House for confirmation on whether Dr Birx was tested for coronavirus after she travelled to Delaware.

The Centres for Disease, Control and Prevention (CDC) also warned US citizens against mixing with people from other households and urged Americans to stay at home.

Amid a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases prior to Thanksgiving, The CDC’s coronavirus incident manager, Dr Henry Walke, told NBC: “The opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time.”

Despite the warnings, at least 6.6 million people flew across the US in the seven-day period before Thanksgiving, which was the highest weekly figure since the week of 14-20 March. Millions more travelled to see family by car.

Coronavirus cases have continued to rise after the Thanksgiving period, and the US set a new daily record on Friday with 249,709 positive Covid-19 tests recorded across the country.

In the past week, more than 18,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US, as hospitals are struggling to deal with the number of coronavirus patients.

Kathleen Flynn, the sister of the man married to Dr Birx's daughter, told the AP that the coronavirus task force member’s decision to travel caused “family friction,” as she “cavalierly violated her own guidance.”

However, Dr Birx’s father Richard defended her, telling the AP: “Dr Birx is very conscientious and a very good doctor and scientist from everything I can see.”

Earlier this month, the AP reported that Dr Birx had reached out to several aides of President-elect Joe Biden in hopes of securing a position in his administration after his inauguration on 20 January.

Dr Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Georgetown Centre for Global Health Science and Security, told the AP on Sunday that Dr Birx’s actions over Thanksgiving: “disqualifies her from any future government health position.”

She added: “It’s a terrible message for someone in public health to be sending to the American people.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 17.8 million people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached 317,670.

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