SILENT INVASION: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late
By Deborah Birx
On March 2, 2020, Dr. Deborah Birx took up her new place as coronavirus response coordinator inside the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She was recent off a aircraft from South Africa, the place she had been busy in her sixth yr as the worldwide AIDS coordinator for the United States, overseeing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a well-regarded and efficacious initiative begun by George W. Bush. The phrase “coordinator” is an equivocal title below the perfect of bureaucratic circumstances, not to mention within the Trump White House, and amid the urgency of this new pandemic, arising to occlude the older one (AIDS), Birx had no time or alternative to outline the title earlier than assuming it. She had stated sure to “a job I didn’t seek but felt compelled to accept,” she recounts in “Silent Invasion.” She wasn’t the chair of this White House job pressure; Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, held that place till he was changed after one month by Vice President Pence. Birx had an workplace within the West Wing however virtually no workers, and her solely leverage was persuasion. Her account of how that performed out — it’s no spoiler to say, how poorly that performed out — is earnest, exhaustive and excruciating.
A consultant level of inflection occurred inside her first week. She sat in a gathering, ready to listen to Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current detailed knowledge exhibiting the place the virus was in America at that time — knowledge that, she assumed, could be particular to counties, municipalities and ZIP codes, and would come with constructive take a look at charges and hospitalization charges, in order that efforts could possibly be centered in opposition to localized outbreaks and projections could possibly be made as to the place the illness may explode subsequent. What she and her colleagues acquired was a one-page C.D.C. handout, missing any granular element. “I pressed the flats of my hands into my eyes and shook my head,” she tells us. “I had expected something very different.” Advanced data-reporting constructions and procedures, reminiscent of she and her PEPFAR group had helped African nations develop over years, didn’t exist within the United States, although they’d be badly wanted inside the coming days. It wasn’t the final time Birx would ship a face-palm response, actually or figuratively, to her new colleagues and managers.
“I looked down at my feet and wished for two things: something to kick,” she writes, “and for the floor to open up and swallow me whole.”
She did that to Trump himself, considerably extra discreetly, on April 23, 2020, as she sat in opposition to a facet wall within the White House briefing room whereas he extolled, earlier than assembled reporters, the thought of utilizing disinfectant chemical substances taken internally as a attainable therapy in opposition to the virus. Did he suggest that Americans drink bleach? It wasn’t clear that he didn’t. If such disinfectants may kill SARS-CoV-2 on a tabletop, as Trump had been informed, why not? “Knocks it out in a minute,” he stated. “One minute.” So maybe the medical doctors ought to strive injection. “It would be interesting to check that,” the president opined, with no signal of joking (as he claimed later). Birx froze, arms clenched on her lap. You can see her there even now, in video preserved on YouTube. “I looked down at my feet and wished for two things: something to kick,” she writes, “and for the floor to open up and swallow me whole.”
By that date, she and her extra dependable colleagues on the duty pressure, the physicians Redfield and Anthony Fauci, had achieved one thing helpful: persuading the president to countenance a 15-day partial shutdown suggestion, then a 30-day extension, below the slogan “Stop the Spread”; the federal government appeared to be taking the viral risk significantly. “The president’s disinfectant remark could unravel all that,” Birx remembers pondering, “and at the worst possible time.” When Trump turned to her for touch upon the potential advantages of disinfectant, and in addition of some type of sterilizing gentle — daylight or beams of pure UV radiation or who is aware of — she answered, “Not as a treatment.” Birx didn’t, as she had hoped, vanish by the ground, however she did vanish from the stream chart of White House affect round that point. The each day information conferences ended, and he or she discovered herself marginalized all through the remainder of her tenure as job pressure coordinator — proper up till Jan. 19, 2021. Why did she stay within the job? Because Trump and his political advisers didn’t wish to fireplace her, which may have induced some unhealthy publicity throughout an election yr, and he or she didn’t wish to stop. “I am not a quitter,,” she writes, one of many self-testimonials with which she bolsters herself all through the guide.