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Judge Pirro asks Dr. Birx hard questions, but answers cause confusion

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Though Dr. Deborah Birx, a lead member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, appeared on Fox News late Saturday to provide some needed answers to host Judge Jeanine Pirro, she wound up only inspiring further questions.

Of note is the contrast between how she started the interview by admitting that the true coronavirus infection rate is likely far higher than initially thought (meaning in turn that the death rate is likely far lower) but ended it by dismissing a herd immunity strategy on the basis that it’d be inappropriate “with this level of mortality.”

The remarks seemed awfully inconsistent.

Listen to the early part of the interview below, via FNC’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine” (disable your adblocker if the video doesn’t appear):

Asked by Pirro about initial predictions that the mortality rate would be five percent or higher, Birx admitted that the government had made an error in judgment.

“I think we underestimated very early on the number of asymptomatic cases, and I think we’re really beginning to understand that there are people that get infected that the symptoms are so low grade that they don’t even know that they’re infected, and we’re beginning to see that with the New York antibodies study,” she said.

On Saturday, New York officials released preliminary results for a coronavirus antibody study that found that about 12 percent of the state’s population and 20 percent of New York City’s population already possess the antibodies.

Yet according to official tabulations, only 318,134 people out of an estimated 19.45 million New Yorkers (or 1.6 percent) and 177,490 people out of an estimated 8.3 million New York City residents (or 2.16 percent) have contracted the virus.

See the problem? If the real coronavirus infection rate is so high, then the real coronavirus death rate must similarly be very low, particularly if you take into account the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s classification rules.

“The CDC is mandating that deaths that are affected by COVID be attributable to COVID,” Pirro noted as the discussion on FNC continued.

“So if someone’s in a hospital and say dying of cancer or has a heart problem … isn’t it unfair to kind of estimate or suggest that those deaths that aren’t actually caused by COVID are attributable to COVID if COVID is anywhere in the symptoms of the deceased?”

Birx replied by arguing that it’s still fair to classify deaths this way, with the basis being that the preexisting conditions (cancer, heart disease) didn’t cause the deaths directly by themselves but rather by exacerbating the patient’s underlying coronavirus symptoms.

“If you have heart disease, if you have diabetes, if you have asthma, if you have cancer, if you’re immunosuppressed, all of those issues make you susceptible to a much more difficult course [of coronavirus],” she said.

“So I do believe that a lot of the diseases we’re seeing in the hospital right now, yes, they may have preexisting conditions, but those preexisting conditions are resulting in them having a much serious course when they’re infected with this virus.”

After a few more minutes of talking specifically about ventilator-related deaths, Pirro then turned the discussion to the topic of developing herd immunity, a coronavirus strategy that’s already being implemented in Sweden with great success.

It’s at this point in the interview that Birx’s remarks began to grow inconsistent.

Listen:

“Wouldn’t it be a better idea to have those low-risk individuals who are now being isolated even if they aren’t infected … to allow them to go out and at least start to develop the herd immunity that we need, because they’re only going to develop the disease in a very very mild way?” Pirro asked.

“And isn’t the herd immunity essential to ultimately getting rid of this virus until at the very least we get a vaccine?”

Birx replied by contracting what she’d said earlier.

“We’ve always used the term herd immunity when it comes to vaccination. No one would use that term in general in discussing a pandemic and letting a pandemic run out with this level of mortality that we see with comorbidities.”

“We have to remember that in America we have a lot people, even young people, with diabetes and asthma and hypertension. And so protecting them really becomes very critical, because they can have a very difficult course.”

But as she already admitted earlier in the interview, America also has many asymptomatic cases, meaning that the real “level of mortality” is likely significantly lower than what’s been officially reported.

Birx added that it’s “very clear that in opening up America again, there are clear gating criteria and there are really clear phases that every single state needs to consider.”

Except that the “clear gating criteria” are currently being compared against incorrect coronavirus infection rates and inflated coronavirus death rates …

Vivek Saxena

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