White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx blasted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a coronavirus task force meeting recently during a discussion on COVID-19 data, according to The Washington Post.
The Post reported Dr. Birx told CDC Director Robert Redfield, “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” and that Birx and others feared the CDC’s statistics on mortality rate and case counts were inflated by up to 25 percent, sources familiar with the meeting told the newspaper.
Several of the Post’s sources described the meeting with Birx and Redfield as “heated.” According to the newspaper, Redfield defended the CDC in the meeting. Birx and others present in the meeting expressed frustration, saying that the agency’s antiquated virus tracking system was inflating some statistics.
The tense discussion occurred two days after an internal government model —based largely on data from the CDC— projected the daily death count would rise to 3,000 by June 1, the Post reported. The 3,000 projected daily coronavirus deaths figure came from a report by Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Lessler created the COVID-19 model but says the report was a “work still in progress.” According to The Blaze, Lessler stated that he wasn’t sure how his research became a point of discussion for government officials, or how it appeared in The New York Times last week.
Birx commented on Lessler’s report in a statement: “Contrary to data from Johns Hopkins, which shows daily coronavirus deaths in the U.S. staying steady at 2,000 per day for several weeks, mortality is slowing declining each day.” The U.S had 1,687 confirmed deaths on Friday, and 1,422 on Saturday.
Another tense point in the meeting came during a discussion on the drug remdesivir, a medication that has shown promising early results in clinical trials. The Trump administration has been working to distribute the drug to states hit hard by the coronavirus. According to the Post, an official in the meeting announced the government had already shipped the drug to seven states. Birx and others in the meeting were reportedly caught by surprise, as they had not yet determined which states should be prioritized. The Post reported Birx asked the official, “Why would you do that?”
There is a higher Medicare allocation allowed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act for COVID-19 diagnoses. The law provides for Medicare to pay facilities a lump-sum of $13,000 for COVID-related pneumonia cases, and $39,000 for COVID-related pneumonia patients that end up on ventilators. This is significantly more than the typical $5,000 payment Medicare issues to facilities for patients diagnosed with non-COVID-related pneumonia.
Many frontline COVID-19 doctors have recently gone public, saying they feel pressured to show the virus as cause-of-death on certificates of patients suspected of having the virus despite these patients having numerous serious comorbid health conditions. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Department of Public Health in Illinois, recently explained to reporters, “If you died of a clear alternative cause, but you had COVID at the same time, it’s still listed as a COVID death.” Now, even the nation’s top doctors involved in the coronavirus response are challenging the CDC on their rules and methods of reporting.
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This piece was written by Amy Johnston on May 11, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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