CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta kicked off his exclusive interview with Dr. Deborah Birx by asking the White House coronavirus task force member if the 250,000 dead and rising indicates that the U.S. response was “a failure.”
CNN began rolling out portions of the interview on Friday morning’s edition of New Day, and Dr. Gupta cut to the chase pretty quickly with his second question.
“I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to represent how we’ve done in this country, 250,000 people have died, you can compare it to other countries, South Korea, 500 people have died,” he said, and then asked “Was this a failure in this country? I mean did you expect it to go this way?”
Dr. Birx delivered a very diplomatic and gentle affirmative response, telling Dr. Gupta “I always worry when we have an outcome that none of us want, and none of us wanted. You know, did we miss a communication? Did we say it the wrong way? And I think really that’s part of the reason why I went out into the states, is really understand what they were hearing when we were speaking, and really being in a dialogue and a partnership to really understand how we could do this better together.”
“Was the lack of testing and the continued inadequate testing the original sin here?” Dr. Gupta asked next.
Dr. Birx again delivered a lengthy and measured response that amounted to criticism of the testing response.
It’s not only the number of tests and the type of test, but using that in the optimal way so that we can get the most answers for the quantity that we have.
Certainly I’m a big proponent of testing and expanding testing, I actually think testing alone isn’t public health intervention and if you are constantly our testing people and isolating the positives, then you have a very different outcome.
Dr. Birx: If you look at the universities that had mandatory — mandatory! — testing, they ended up with less than 1% of their student body infected. Those that did testing the way we did it in America, primarily focused on symptomatics, contact tracing, isolating, and quarantining, they had 8 to 10% of their student body infected.
Dr. Gupta: Was there ever a strategic decision not to test as much?
Dr. Birx: I think there was not a strategic decision not to test, there was a strategic decision to test more until a particular time frame in the late summer, when you saw the CDC guidance change to symptomatic testing. From there, I really, I can’t tell you how strongly I believe that symptomatic testing and contact tracing is only, is less than half of the equation. And unless you get the other half of the equation, you’re not going to stop community spread. And so that did put a pale on testing for a number of weeks.
Watch the clip above via CNN.
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