White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx joined FNC's Maria Bartiromo on "Sunday Morning Futures" to respond to this tweet from the president:
What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2020
"I would say, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, and I all come from a place where another disease was highly politicized," Birx said. "When we were working on the front lines of HIV/AIDS -- we understood two things that were absolutely critical, communicating early scientific facts, because communities can understand them. And it gives communities the ability to have the knowledge to protect themselves... I think we understand that those messages of science and policy need to continue to be brought forward to the American people in a non-political way."
MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: So, first, let me ask you, where are we today with this virus? We know what Vice President Pence said. What do you say in terms of where we are and what is most important?
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Well, I think what we have tried to convey to the American people is, every metro area is different in where they are in the epidemic.
So, when you look at New Orleans, they're way on the downside, and they have a very low number of cases. When you look at Detroit, they're moving on to the downside. When you look at Boston and Chicago, we're still very concerned about the rate of new infections.
And, at the same time, we're tracking every county, including rural America, to look very carefully about any outbreaks that occur at the county level and rural areas. And that together is really informing how we work with every governor and every state and local official to really ensure that they have the support that they need.
BARTIROMO: So, I know that you have studied disease for many years across the world
And you look at data all day long. You're getting the very latest data every day, 2:30 in the morning. Then you're bringing it, studying it, analyzing it, mining it, bringing it to the task force, and telling the public about it.
Tell me what strikes you most about the data that you're seeing today, because I know that you have uncovered and identified some data about people who don't have any symptoms. Tell us why that's important. And what strikes you most about the data you're looking at today?
BIRX: I think we're getting a lot of information out of these isolated outbreaks that are occurring, whether they are occurring in prisons or among essential workers in packing plants, or, specifically, gatherings that came together, whether it was a wedding or an event.
And when you look at those epidemics, it isn't until you start seeing symptomatic groups. When you go in and test, you find a lot of people had the virus and may not ever develop symptoms. And I think we're really starting to look at this in a very careful way to understand how we do surveillance.
And so, in the guidelines that were put out, because we could start to see this even a couple of weeks ago, we were very careful in the guidelines to recognize two parts of monitoring this epidemic, one, continuing to diagnose cases.
Those are people who come forward with fever or other symptoms, but, secondly, setting up surveillance, what we call this actually sentinel monitoring of specific populations that we know may be of greater risk, where you want to find those asymptomatic cases earlier, long-term care facilities, among Native Americans, inner-city metro areas, where there may be multigenerational households, to really screen people before they develop symptoms to really understand if the virus is in the community and increasing or decreasing.
This is a novel approach. We haven't had to do this often with respiratory diseases. And so we're bringing together those two aspects to really have a comprehensive plan, working with each and every governor and state and local official to make sure that both components, diagnosis and monitoring for the populations at greatest risk, simultaneously.
BARTIROMO: So, that means that we're going to have to see more antibody testing to understand who is walking around who has it or had it with no symptoms?
BIRX: And I think that who had it is very important to understand.
And you have heard a lot about these antibody tests, what we have been working on with CDC and with the FDA, because we did this -- there's other diseases where we try to find asymptomatic cases, whether it be chlamydia or HIV or HPV. We know how to do this.
And so, with an antibody test, you often want to do two. That increases what we call the specificity and sensitivity of the test to make it more accurate.
So, we have been waiting -- and it's why we haven't come out with a specific algorithm, although we think we will have it by the beginning of this week -- to really talk about how you do one test, followed by -- if you're positive, you confirm that with a second test.
BARTIROMO: I see.
BIRX: That really increases the -- what we call the positive predictive value of that test.
BARTIROMO: Let me ask you, Dr. Birx.
You have been doing this for so many years on a scientific level. Here, it's a little bit of a new game for you, with the politics getting involved, right?
How difficult has it been in terms of politics getting through all of this? There's controversy over hydroxychloroquine, the FDA issuing a warning on Friday that hydroxychloroquine, that -- this warning about this drug. The president is getting slammed for calling it a miracle drug a couple weeks ago.
And then, of course, this week, the president tweeted this: "What is the purpose of having White House news conferences, when the lamestream media asks nothing but hostile questions, and then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately? They get record ratings, and the American people get nothing but fake news. Not worth the time and effort."
Are you going to stop these regular daily press briefings, Dr. Birx?
BIRX: Well, we -- I would say, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield and I all come from a place where another disease was highly politicized.
And when we were working on the front lines of HIV/AIDS, and -- we understood two things that were absolutely critical, communicating early scientific facts, because communities can understand them. And it gives communities the ability to have knowledge to protect themselves. And that is really extraordinary.
And then also communicate about what we're studying and what we're not studying and why. And those are in clinical trials and other evidence-based -- and, any time we hear about something that could be hopeful, to let the American people know that we're studying that, that we're -- we're not leaving any stone unturned to really figure out what can really help the American people.
But I think that communication to communities is essential, because a knowledgeable community is a protected community. And we know that's important. And I think we understand that those messages of science and policy need to continue to be brought forward to the American people in a non-political way.
BARTIROMO: So, do you think it's best to do the communicating when you have something new to communicate?
Or do you think you should be doing these press conferences every day, putting the president out there, and fielding these questions in some regard that may not have anything to do with the science?
BIRX: Well, every day, we discover something new and important.
And I think the American people should understand that we had no experience with this virus until a few weeks ago anywhere in the world. And starting in January, different information started coming in, but not in a country like the United States.
We are probably the most genetically diverse. We have the most different age groups that have not seen this virus before. We're a younger country than much of Europe. So our outcomes and our knowledge are going to be critical for all the countries moving forward.
And we have really been delving into, what -- why do our younger people have a different course than we saw or have been reported in other countries? Our -- is it a genetic issue? Is it the way we respond to the virus? Is it an antibody response to the virus?
BIRX: We're uncovering really important pieces.
And I just want to acknowledge the health care workers that are in the front line, who are getting this information back to us on an everyday basis