The House Select Subcommittee Investigating the Nation’s Covid Response has prepared a report that states the White House repeatedly ignored the recommendations of top infectious disease experts in public health and testing and silenced officials to support then-President Donald Trump.
Trump hosted an August meeting at the White House with people who supported a White House herd immunity strategy. This was promoted by Scott Atlas, a White House special advisor. The subcommittee received an email in which Dr. Deborah Birx (White House Covid response coordinator) told Marc Short that it was “a fringe organization without grounding in epidemics or grounding in common sense experience.” Birx also stated in the email that she could “go outside of town or whatever gives WH cover” the day of the meeting.
According to emails, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of National Institutes of Health, called for a “quick and devastating published dismantling” of the herd immunity plan. This was October, according to emails that were obtained by the subcommittee.
Birx stated that she discovered that federal officials hadn’t yet reached out to some of the largest U.S. companies capable of providing Covid testing when she arrived at the White House in March 2020, more than a month following the declaration by the U.S. of a public emergency.
Birx also stated to the panel that Atlas, Trump officials and others had “purposely weakened CDC’s coronavirus test guidance in August 2020 to hide how quickly the virus was spreading across America,” the report stated. It was suggested that people who are not symptomatic should be tested. This is contrary to consensus science-based recommendations. “Dr. Birx stated that these modifications were made to decrease the number of tests being performed.
Altas did no immediate respond to NBC News’ request.
In its investigation, the subcommittee found that the Trump White House had blocked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requests to hold public briefings for longer than three months. This was in response to a briefing held by the CDC’s top official late February 2020, where he “accurately” warned the public about the dangers posed the coronavirus.
Another CDC official informed the panel that the agency requested a briefing on April 2020 regarding a recommendation to cover the face with cloth and show evidence of Covid deaths and cases in children. However, the Trump White House declined.
According to the report of the subcommittee, CDC officials stated that they refused media requests to interview them during this period.
The report also stated that documents obtained by the committee show that Trump’s political appointees attempted to force the Food and Drug Administration into authorizing ineffective Covid treatments, such as hydroxychloroquine and Convalescent Plasma, over the objections and concerns of career scientists.
The subcommittee also stated that Dr. Steven Hatfill was an adviser to Peter Navarro’s former White House trade advisor.
Hatfill stated in a statement that the administration started sourcing personal protection equipment in 2020. Hatfill stated that the best and most efficient decision was to seek U.S.-based manufacturing assistance.
He said that profiteers were selling fraudulent and defective PPE at high prices to the public at the time. These schemes were successful in states like California and New Mexico, but federal officials had no time for waste. Even the smallest delay could result in thousands of deaths. This was a risk that we weren’t willing to take. We saved lives and helped the American taxpayer by buying American goods.”
Jay Butler, a senior CDC officer who assisted with the agency’s coronavirus response in the spring 2020, stated in an interview to the subcommittee that the Trump administration had published guidance for faith communities in May last year. This guidance “softened certain very important public health recommendations,” including suggestions to remove face coverings and suspend choirs. Butler stated that he was haunted by his concerns about Americans dying and getting sick from the guidance.
These revelations are made as Covid cases rise across the country as the U.S. fights the new omicron variants and the delta variants.