I was very disappointed with Dr. Birx’s interview answers…

Old paradigms, lack of data, inconclusive.
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Yesterday, Bret Baer in-depth interviewed Dr. Deborah Birx.

For the record, I think that Dr. Birx is a trusted source: smart, experienced, knowledgeable, “clued in”, well-intended, apolitical, honest, etc.

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I thought that Baer’s questions cut to the chase:

  • Where do we stand right now on the virus?
  • What is the key statistic that you track?
  • What’s the purpose of testing if it takes 3 or 4 days to get results?
  • Specifically, what do we know about kids catching and transmitting the virus?
  • What is your recommendation re: re-opening schools?
  • How susceptible are people to getting re-infected?
  • How good is the data that you rely on?

Unfortunately, Dr. Birx’s answers to these pivotal questions were, in my opinion, very disappointing.

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In general Dr. Birx’s answers reminded me of two old consulting adages

  • “If you don’t know what time it is, explain the intricacies of watch-making”
  • “If you don’t know the answer, tell them what you’ve done.”

My take: Birx wasn’t trying to be evasive .. she just didn’t have pertinent data to answer questions conclusively.

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More specifically, summarizing her answers:

Where do we stand right now on the virus?

Birx: In the 1st wave, the virus was concentrated in a few Northern urban areas.  Now, it’s more widespread across Sun Belt counties, including rural areas.

My take: Common knowledge.  I wanted to know: Are the Sun Belt states cresting or still exploding?

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What is the key statistic that you track?

Birx: Test positivity (i.e. ratio of positive test results to total tests). It’s the most sensitive indicator and best early warning.

My take: Really? A representative sample of the local populations is not being tested.  The positivity rate is a function of who shows up to be tested.  If it’s only people with covid-like symptoms, then of course, the positivity rate will be high. Keep in mind that over 90% of the people who are being tested get negative results …  and that — of those testing positive — only some are hospitalized … most are just instructed to stay home.  I want to know the mix of people being tested … the treatment that they’re being prescribed … and, their outcomes. 

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What’s the purpose of testing if it takes 3 or 4 days to get results?

Birx: The labs are overloaded. We’re working hard to cut the turnaround times by off-loading to labs in “low positivity areas” and doing “pooled testing”.

My take: Didn’t answer the question, confirming my doubts re: whether there even  is a testing strategy.

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Specifically, what do we know about kids catching and transmitting the virus?

Birx: The best study is from South Korea indicating that children over 10 transmit less than adults and that children under 10 transmit less than children over 10. We do know that younger children “do well” with the virus.

Baer: These are linchpin questions…

Brix: “We’re launching a study to determine where the virus has been, who has been infected, who is susceptible to infection and who transmits it.”

My take: Incredulous that — 6 months into the epidemic — these questions are still unanswered … and that studies are just being launched.

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What is your recommendation re: re-opening schools?

Birx: It’s a complicated issue and local authorities must decide.  Students and teachers with pre-existing conditions shouldn’t return to school yet. If schools do open, they should follow CDC guidelines.

My take: A better question would have been “Do you feel comfortable having your grandchildren return to school now?”

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How susceptible are people to getting re-infected?

Birx: “We don’t see a high level of re-infection”.

My take: This was the most conclusive answer that Birx gave … she sounded confident.

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How good is the data that you rely on?

Birx: The CDC is good at gathering, analyzing and reporting surveillance, epidemiology and lab data.

My take: So then, Dr. Birx, why don’t we have a clearer picture of where the virus has been, who has been infected, who is susceptible to infection and who transmits it?

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Again, I thought the questions were on target but that the answers were very disappointing.

I wish Baer had drilled a bit harder, but he probably realized that she just didn’t know more and didn’t want to embarrass her.

Watch the 15 minute interview to see if you agree…

 

One Response to “I was very disappointed with Dr. Birx’s interview answers…”

  1. Birx: “Key metric that I watch is the positivity rate” | The Homa Files Says:

    […] yesterday’s post, I indicted that I was very disappointed with Dr. Brix’s answers  in a TV interview with Bret […]

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