Dr. Deborah L. Birx, who has carefully straddled the line between science and politics as she helps lead the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, delivered a stark private warning on Monday, telling White House officials that the pandemic is entering a new and “deadly phase” that demands a more aggressive approach.

The warning, contained in a private memo to White House officials as the nation’s daily coronavirus caseload has broken records and approached 100,000, amounted to a direct contradiction of President Trump’s repeated — and inaccurate — assertions that the pandemic is “rounding the corner.”

In the memo, Dr. Birx suggested that Mr. Trump and his advisers were spending too much time focusing on preventing lockdowns and not enough time on controlling the virus.

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic,” Dr. Birx wrote, adding: “This is not about lockdowns — it hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.”

The memo’s existence was reported earlier by The Washington Post. A top White House official who has seen it confirmed its contents.

The blunt message was a striking one for Dr. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, who at least in public has taken care not to criticize the president or his administration. Her sharp critique reflects a growing concern among government scientists and public health experts that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.

Dr. Birx, a respected AIDS researcher, was named the coronavirus response coordinator in March. The job has required her to manage the work of the White House coronavirus task force, tracking and orchestrating the government’s effort to contain the outbreak. In the early days of the pandemic, she projected a calm, authoritative presence — and a steady counterpoint to the mixed messages from Mr. Trump.

But her tendency to remain silent as the president spread misinformation has hurt her reputation, and some of her old allies in the AIDS advocacy world have turned against her, saying openly that she has lost credibility in their eyes.

Source: The New York Times

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