Birx suggests inauguration-related gatherings could amount to “superspreader” event

CDC adviser Dr. Deborah Birx, the former coordinator of the Trump White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, suggested that the gatherings surrounding the inauguration of President Biden “could be'” a superspreader event for the deadly coronavirus. Birx, in an interview to air on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” told moderator Margaret Brennan that National Guard troops “congruently living and eating maskless” are of greatest concern.

“Right now, in the District of Columbia, there are National Guard troops here from every state in the union, probably, young individuals who are most likely to have asymptomatic infection if they do get infected. And they’re congruently living and eating maskless, 25 to 30,000 of them from all over the United States,” said Birx. 

Birx, a former U.S. Army colonel, said the National Guard troops were “going to do their mission” regardless of the risk presented before them. 

“When you bring 30,000 people together where you know that they’re most likely to have asymptomatic infections and you haven’t prescreened, pre-tested, and serially tested all of these troops. These are dedicated troops. They’re going to do their mission. I can promise you that they will sacrifice their own health to do their mission, because that’s the- that’s what I came from. You sacrifice for others out of the military. They will do their mission.”

Birx’s comments to Brennan come amid a flurry of criticism on Capitol Hill after members of the National Guard were asked to leave the Capitol building and relocate to a nearby parking garage to rest during their shifts, after spending days in the cold securing the United States Capitol following the deadly siege two weeks ago.

The decision drew swift condemnation from lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called the move “outrageous.” The move was reversed late Thursday. 

Birx explained to Brennan later in their interview that any maskless gathering indoors is “not okay,” but that Americans are going to make mistakes.

“We all make mistakes, we’re human. If you made a mistake, if you had a gathering, at least get tested, wear a mask around those vulnerable, assume you got exposed and are infected and wear a mask around those vulnerable.” 

Birx herself received a deluge of backlash for gathering with family members for the Thanksgiving holiday, at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans not to travel or mix with those outside their own household.

She described the criticism to Brennan as unfair since she lives part-time with her elderly parents and grandchildren and does not consider them outside her immediate household. Birx said she splits time between two separate houses to “protect them from me” during periods that she had to quarantine following work-related travel. She said the blowback for the gathering “tested” her and her family.

More of Birx’s interview will air this Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS at 10:30 a.m. EST.

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