Dr. Birx announces she will retire; ‘overwhelming’ holiday travel scandal too much for her family


Dr. Deborah Birx cited the “overwhelming” experience her family went through in the past week as she announced she will be retiring.

The White House coronavirus response coordinator revealed Tuesday that she would assist the incoming Biden administration if asked, but essentially plans to retire soon after following a week in which she came under fire for traveling to Delaware over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Birx spoke about her intentions with Newsy’s Amber Strong on Tuesday, explaining how the way her family was treated in the aftermath of her criticized trip played a role in her decision to retire after working in the federal government for decades.

“I want the Biden administration to be successful,” she said. “I’ve worked since 1980 in the federal government, first through the military, then through [the Department of Health and Human Services], and then detailed to the State Department and detailed here, where I hope I was helpful. I will be helpful in any role people think I can be helpful in, and then I will retire.”

The 64-year-old, who has served as the United States Global AIDS Coordinator since 2014, under President Trump and former President Barack Obama, was slammed after traveling with three generations of her family from different households to reportedly prepare a home for sale.

She released a statement on Monday that seemed designed to get her off the hook for making the trip despite publicly urging Americans to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Birx explained that she traveled with her “immediate household” and that she did not go “for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving,” which normally would have included 30 to 40 family members.

“I have to say this experience has been a bit overwhelming,” Birx told Strong on Tuesday.

“It’s been very difficult on my family. I think what was done in the last week to my family, you know, they didn’t choose this for me,” she added.

“You know, they’ve tried to be supportive, but to drag my family into this, when my daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months, they’ve become deeply depressed, as I’m sure many elderly have as they’ve not been able to see sons, their granddaughters. My parents haven’t seen their surviving son for over a year,” she said. “These are all very difficult things.”

The statement earlier in the week from the health expert came on the heels of many other leaders and officials defying their own directives and advice. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and others have faced similar backlash for their hypocrisy.

Birx urged Americans in a CNN  interview in November to “be vigilant” ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, and to limit gatherings to “your immediate household.”

In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” following the holiday, Birx declared that anyone who had gathered for Thanksgiving should assume they are infected and get tested.

“We know people may have made mistakes over the Thanksgiving time period,” Birx said at the time. “If you’re young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to 10 days later. But you need to assume that you’re infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask.”

Biden has not called on Birx for any role in his incoming administration but named Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Birx’s fellow Coronavirus Task Force member, as his chief medical adviser.

Frieda Powers

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