Trump's Covid-19 coordinator testifies she was asked to water down guidance to US states

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WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Dr Deborah Birx, President Donald Trump's coronavirus response coordinator, told a congressional committee investigating the federal pandemic response that Trump White House officials asked her to change or delete parts of the weekly guidance she sent state and local health officials, in what she described as a consistent effort to stifle information as virus cases surged in the second half of 2020.

Dr Birx, who publicly testified to the panel on Thursday (June 23) morning, also told the committee that Trump White House officials withheld the reports from states during a winter outbreak and refused to publicly release the documents, which featured data on the virus' spread and recommendations for how to contain it.

Her account of White House interference came in a multiday interview the committee conducted in October 2021, which was released on Thursday with a set of emails Dr Birx sent to colleagues in 2020 warning of the influence of a new White House pandemic adviser, Dr Scott Atlas, who she said downplayed the threat of the virus.

The emails provide fresh insight into how Dr Birx and Dr Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, grappled with what Dr Birx called the misinformation spread by Dr Atlas.

The push to downplay the threat was so pervasive, Dr Birx told committee investigators, that she developed techniques to avoid attention from White House officials who might have objected to her public health recommendations. In reports she prepared for local health officials, she said, she would sometimes put ideas at the ends of sentences so that colleagues skimming the text would not notice them.

In her testimony on Thursday, she offered similarly withering assessments of the Trump administration's coronavirus response, suggesting that officials in 2020 had mistakenly viewed the coronavirus as akin to the flu even after seeing high Covid-19 death rates in Asia and Europe.

That perspective, she said, had caused a "false sense of security in America" as well as a "sense among the American people that this was not going to be a serious pandemic". Not using "concise, consistent communicatio...

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