Deborah Birx Avoided Treating Sick Grandchild Over Concerns She'd Infect Trump

Curtis M. Wong

Dr. Deborah Birx commiserated with Americans struggling to adhere to social distancing guidelines Monday, saying she, too, has felt their impact directly.

Birx, the White House coronavirus task force’s response coordinator, said at Monday’s press briefing that she had to avoid treating her 10-month-old granddaughter, who was recently stricken with a 105 degree fever.

Doing so, she reasoned, would put her at risk of transmitting the illness to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

“We need to take care of each other now as Americans and do everything that’s in those guidelines, and I know they’re tough,” Birx said. “My grandchild of 10 months had a fever of 105 this weekend. I’m a doctor, and I couldn’t get there. So I’m trying to explain to my daughter how to listen to her lungs.”

The incident, she said, led to “some sleepless nights for me,” though she believes her granddaughter had roseola ― a common infection among young children ― and not COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Gesturing toward Trump and Pence, she said her decision to stay away had been firm “because of you two.”

“I mean, you can’t take that kind of risk with the leaders of the country,” she added.

Birx, who meets with Trump and Pence daily, has been thrust into the national spotlight as the coronavirus outbreak has intensified. She and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have been voices of clarity with regard to science during the White House’s coronavirus briefings.

Since 2014, she has also led the government response in the fight against HIV/AIDS globally.

At Monday’s briefing, she once again urged all Americans to stay at home as much as possible “out of respect for every single health care worker that’s on the front line.”

“We want every American to know that what they’re doing is making a difference,” she said. “But we need to...

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