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The Trump White House silenced health experts trying to warn the public about COVID-19, new testimony says

Robert Redfield, Debra Birx, and Donald Trump
Donald Trump at a COVID-19 press conference with his task-force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and CDC director Robert Redfield on April 22, 2020.

  • New documents describe how the Trump administration blocked US efforts to fight COVID-19.
  • Health officials said they were blocked from hold press briefings as the pandemic worsened.
  • One – Dr. Deborah Birx – said up to 40% of COVID deaths may have been avoided with a better approach.

The Trump administration blocked the CDC from warning the public about the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, according to testimony from US health officials.

Leading figures in the US government response to the pandemic described struggling to get their message out because of interference from Trump officials in interviews with a House committee investigating how the pandemic was handled.

Their comments feature in interview transcripts which were published Friday by The Washington Post.

One interviewee was Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a leading CDC official. She said she was prevented from making media appearances after she warned about the rapid spread of COVID-19 in early 2020.

The warnings she was able to made led to reprimands from officials including then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, she said.

“Our intention was certainly to get the public’s attention about the likelihood … that it was going to spread and that we thought that there was a high risk that it would be disruptive,”

“I specifically remember being upset after the call [with Azar]”, she told investigators.

Kate Galatas, a senior CDC communications official, said the White House repeatedly blocked the CDC’s media requests, including a planned April 2020 briefing.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the former coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, accused the administration of seeking to limit COVID-19 testing to give the impression that there were fewer cases.

Birx said that Trump and his officials ignored health measures she estimated could have saved thousands of lives.

She said: “I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30 percent less to 40 percent less range.”

In a previous interview with the subcommittee, Dr. Birx stated that better decisions by the White House could have limited COVID-19 deaths by as much as 40%.

A representative for Trump did not address the claims that his officials disrupted attempts to curb the pandemic, instead offering a general defense of his record on the virus.

Liz Harrington, a Trump spokeswoman, told The Post: “President Trump led an unprecedented effort to successfully combat the coronavirus, delivering PPE, hospital beds, treatments, and three vaccines in record time.”

She claimed that the Biden administration had done a worse job that Trump, which she said was being obscured by the media.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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