AUBURN — Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited Auburn University on Thursday where she praised the COVID-19 containment efforts undertaken by the state and school in recent weeks while urging continued mitigation measures and an extension of the state’s mask mandate.
Birx said Auburn was her “16th or 17th” college campus visited over the last two months. She told the public that she always arrives early for these visits, unbeknownst to campus administrators.
“The students are being very compliant about their mask wearing and physical distancing,” she reported about the younger people she noticed on Thursday, noting that older people seemed to be less compliant than she liked.
Birx said she had visited almost all of the SEC schools and has coordinated with them since the summer because they were some of the first and biggest universities to announce plans to resume in-person instruction.
“What came out of this is one SEC. Not an SEC of constant competition but an SEC that shared information,” Birx remarked about the combined efforts of the schools she dealt with.
Birx said she talked with Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday morning and urged continued mitigation measures by the state, which sees as being the key to the prominent drop in cases and hospitalizations the state experienced in August.
When asked if she thinks Alabama needs to extend the mask order due to expire on October 2, the doctor replied, “I do.” She added the state needs to keep up containment efforts “through the fall.”
“If you look at what happened within two weeks of the mask mandate, you can see the dramatic decline in cases here in Alabama,” she explained with regards to her position.
When it came time for reporters to ask questions, the internationally renowned doctor was immediately pressed on reporting from CNN published Wednesday that alleged Birx was “distressed” and thinking of leaving her job at the White House because she felt “diminished” in recent weeks.
“They wrote that without even speaking to me,” Birx began in her refutation of the piece by oft-maligned CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
“Do I look like a person that is diminished?” she asked rhetorically, subtly gesturing to the sizable media contingent she was addressing.
“That is the first time those adjectives have ever been used in describing my behavior,” she said.
Birx went on to flatly deny she was considering leaving her role in the government, saying, “I believe I am doing my job pretty well every day.”
The health official provided an update on vaccine efforts, which she described as moving along at a healthy pace.
She detailed how “many” of the individuals receiving the first two vaccine candidates, from companies Pfizer and Moderna respectively, have now received their second of two shots and as such are now detailing the events of their lives and reporting whether they catch COVID-19.
“The way you control viruses in the long run is through a vaccine. Every week we get a vaccine early – I mean you all know the numbers, we are losing nearly 1,000 Americans every day – if we get a vaccine a week earlier that is potentially 7,000 Americans saved,” she concluded.