Donald Trump publicly rebuked a second member of the White House coronavirus taskforce on Monday morning, calling Deborah Birx’s assessment of Covid-19’s spread “pathetic” in a tweet.
Birx warned on Sunday that the coronavirus was entering a new phase in the US and infections were now “extraordinarily widespread” across the country, instead of clustering mainly in a clutch of states and big cities.
That same day, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was critical of Birx in an interview with ABC’s This Week.
The US has the world’s largest number of cases at 4.6m, or one-quarter of the global total, and 154,361 deaths. Black, Latino and Native communities are experiencing a disproportionate number of deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But Trump said on Monday morning that it wasn’t the dismal figures which prompted Birx’s assessment, but Pelosi’s criticism. “In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!” Trump tweeted.
Nancy Pelosi says she doesn’t have confidence in Dr Deborah Birx over coronavirus – video
Birx was the second senior coronavirus taskforce public health official to be publicly criticized by the president in three days. On Saturday, the president wrote “wrong!” in a tweet that included a video of Anthony Fauci talking about how the US has seen more cases than other countries because it only did a partial shutdown earlier in the year.
While Trump has been in an ongoing public back-and-forth with Fauci, this is the first time he has singled out Birx, who has worked especially closely with the president, for a public shaming.
The New York Times previously reported that Birx was delivering an optimistic outlook to Trump on the path of the coronavirus infections “curve”, which did not reflect a worse situation on the ground. Pelosi spoke badly of Birx behind closed doors on Capitol Hill last week, Politico reported.
Trump’s Monday criticism of Birx was part of a flurry of morning tweets, as the White House and Congress were under pressure to respond to the urgent economic situation facing tens of millions of American families.
Key issues facing lawmakers were the expiration of the eviction moratorium on 24 July, the same weekend 30 million Americans received their last unemployment checks to include a $600 supplement. The federal unemployment aid expansion officially expired a week later.
Trump has said addressing these two issues is a priority, but Senate Republicans only unveiled their stimulus proposal on 27 July and its contents have caused infighting in the party. The bill also lacked some proposals the White House wanted and is far from including items which Democrats say are essential to address the country’s economic and healthcare crises.
From miracle cures to slowing testing: how Trump has defied science on coronavirus – video explainer
Congressional Democrats and Trump administration officials will resume talks aimed at hammering out a coronavirus relief bill on Monday afternoon after negotiations remained deadlocked.
The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who is helping lead stimulus negotiations with Congress, said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday that a deal was some way off. On Saturday, he met the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, Pelosi and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, to discuss the deal.
“Yesterday was a step in the right direction. But I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term.”
Trump is considering unilateral actions to address the expired relief programs, two anonymous sources told the Washington Post, but it is not clear what he can actually do because of limits on executive authority.
On Monday morning, Trump again lied that the US was doing better than other countries in its response to the virus.
Donald J. Trump
With the exception of New York & a few other locations, we’ve done MUCH better than most other Countries in dealing with the China Virus. Many of these countries are now having a major second wave. The Fake News is working overtime to make the USA (& me) look as bad as possible!
August 3, 2020
“Much of our Country is doing very well,” Trump tweeted. “Open the Schools!”
The president went golfing on Sunday at Trump National in Potomac Falls, the 13th day he has spent at one of his golf courses in the past 37 days. A protester outside dressed as the grim reaper held up a sign that read “152K” to represent the number of Americans to die from coronavirus.
That same day, Birx, told CNN the US had entered a “new phase” of the pandemic and warned the situation they were seeing was different from March and April, when the outbreak was heading to its first peak in the US, led by the world hotspot at the time, New York City.
Birx also warned people in hard-hit areas should consider wearing a mask at home. “If you have an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you’re positive, if you have individuals in your household with co-morbidities,” Birx said.
States which have seen a recent increase in cases are attempting to manage an influx of patients at hospitals – including those which are underresourced or understaffed.
In California, military medics have been deployed to overwhelmed hospitals. Cases have increased in the state steadily since mid-June and this weekend, the number passed 500,000.
State and local officials also remain concerned about the shortage of testing supplies in the US.
This is of particular concern for schools and universities seeking to reopensoon, with the summer break ending.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report showing how coronavirus spread through a summer camp in Georgia in late June. The camp was forced to close within days, at which point 76% of 344 campers and staffers had tested positive for the virus.