(Headline USA) Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, warned Americans to “be vigilant” and limit celebrations to “your immediate household.”
But Birx herself could not abide by that advice.
The day after Thanksgiving, she traveled to one of her vacation properties on Fenwick Island in Delaware. She was accompanied by three generations of her family from two households. Birx, her husband Paige Reffe, a daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren were present.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked Americans not to travel over the holidays and discourages indoor activity involving members of different households.
“People who do not currently live in your housing unit, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households.”
Even in Birx’s everyday life, there are challenges meeting that standard.
She and her husband have a home in Washington. She also owns a home in nearby Potomac, Maryland, where her elderly parents, and her daughter and family live, and where Birx visits intermittently.
In addition, the children’s other grandmother, who is 77, also regularly travels to the Potomac house and returns to her 92-year-old husband near Baltimore.
“To me this disqualifies her from any future government health position,” said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security. “It’s a terrible message for someone in public health to be sending to the American people.”
After The Associated Press raised questions about her Thanksgiving weekend travels, Birx acknowledged in a statement that she went to her Delaware property. She declined to be interviewed.
She insisted the purpose of the roughly 50-hour visit was to deal with the winterization of the property before a potential sale — something she says she previously hadn’t had time to do because of her busy schedule.
“I did not go to Delaware for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving,” Birx said in her statement, adding that her family shared a meal together while in Delaware.
Birx said that everyone on her Delaware trip belongs to her “immediate household,” even as she acknowledged they live in two different homes.
She initially called the Potomac home a “3 generation household (formerly 4 generations).” White House officials later said it continues to be a four-generation household, a distinction that would include Birx as part of the home.
While in Delaware, she conducted an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” in which she noted some Americans “went across the country or even into the next state” for the holiday weekend.
“Some people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period,” Birx said in the interview, adding that those who travelled should assume they were infected.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.