Unethical Quote Of The Month: Dr. Deborah Birx

“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important. This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe and that means everybody doing the six-feet distancing, washing their hands.”

—Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s pandemic response coordinator, at today’s briefing, after explaining the deaths were expected to “spike” in certain hot spots.


It would be difficult to compose more incompetent and irresponsible statement.

The President had just made a hash of his remarks, saying at one point that there would be “a lot of death,” and at another that he hoped there could be some way to relax the national guidelines to allow Easter services.  That’s a non-sequitur, since he announced no changes. I certainly understand why this kind of POTUS free association musing during a time of such uncertainty drives people crazy, even those who aren’t already bonkers from the Trump Derangement virus.

The President, however is expected to make no sense much of the time. Dr. Birx is supposed to be a trustworthy voice of expertise in the middle of chaos.

Guess not. Consider her statement:

  • It doesn’t figure that the weeks where a sharp increase in deaths are expected would be weeks requiring universal home quarantine, which is what she appeared to be advocating. The virus isn’t going to get more infectious.
  • When I went to the local grocery store two days ago, with my Roy Rogers cowboy mask, nobody came within ten feet of me until checkout, never mind six. So because there are going to be “lots of deaths” nationwide, that means my precautions suddenly are no good, so I have to resort to  living on Halloween candy and old dog biscuits?  This makes no sense.
  • Gee, we are told on Saturday that we can’t shop for groceries or get our drugs refilled for the next two weeks? Thanks for the advance notice, Doc, but no can do.
  • The suggestion, in fact, is ridiculous and largely impossible. Impossible demands are useless, indeed worse than useless, since they undermine the credibility of those who make such statements.
  • What has made grocery stores and pharmacies suddenly deadly now, when they weren’t yesterday, in, say, Alexandria, Virginia, where there are 68 cases reported so far in a rather large county?  New York City this isn’t.
  • This isn’t a hot spot either. Giving blanket, one size fits all draconian directives as if the entire country is New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Detroit and California is lazy and self-evidently unreasonable.
  • If those precautions we have been taking are suddenly no good, why does Dr. Birx still  give us the same old “wash your hands and social distancing” song and dance? If we can’t even go to the grocery store for basics, then presumably we can’t go out at all. If we can’t go out at all, when do we practice social distancing?
  • Perhaps worst of all, I expect her statement to spark panic buying tomorrow, as everyone tries to stock up on two weeks of food and drugs.
  • Finally, why only two weeks? The period seems completely arbitrary. What happens after the two weeks, when everyone has eaten their cats and is near death from not taking their medications? Will we be told to dig holes and crawl into them? What? WHAT??

Birx’s statement will only increase cynicism among members of the public that are tending that way already. The President’s incurable laziness with language is only tolerable if his experts are clear, careful, responsible,and seen as trustworthy. Incompetent statement’s like today’s do tangible damage, and there had better not be more like it.


13 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Dr. Deborah Birx

  1. In fact, now is the time to go to your local big box store (if you don’t live in Vermont) and stock up on essentials like 5,000-piece jig-saw puzzles. This you will later trade with someone else — accomplished by prearrangement as one of you hides in an alley holding a box of dismantled puzzle, watching while the other deposits his or her box six feet away and departs so you can pick up the new one and quickly return home so you can extend the play-time by carefully counting the pieces in the trading box (until you have the correct count twice in a row) to make sure you won’t have to turn your home upside down when you discover at the very end that there is a piece missing right in the middle of the bright blue sky.

  2. No can do, Doctor. Not for those already with health problems who cannot hole up without food, meds, and assistance for two weeks. I wasn’t even aware of any increase, I have better things to do than hang on tv news with baited breaths on a Saturday. Nor can an increase of isolation be sustained with family health at her level without ample notice for preparation.

    I got a better idea, she can hole up by herself in some oubliette without food, meds, or company and the rest of us will continue to cautiously carry on with stiff upper lips instead of baiting panic like her.

  3. Gee, glad I panic-bought yesterday morning.

    Just when Indianapolis stores started opening each morning with actual food and supplies in them, people are going to clean them out again. I even found toilet paper yesterday, though, apparently, everyone in this city has decided to hoard Spam and Pillsbury Refrigerated French Bread.

    Oh, and disinfectant wipes. The stuff we’re supposed to use to wipe down everything in our house up to and including our groceries is nowhere to be found. So now, the CDC says that Americans maybe should wear masks after all these weeks of telling us not to wear masks and how they don’t protect us anyway. Except there are no masks either.

    At least, I found a cartoonish superhero-themed bandana the church had given to all of us volunteers last year and am using that to look like a freakish bank robber in public because I can’t sew to save my life.

    Booyah for consistent coherent inforrmation.

    But, after watching “The Tiger King” yesterday, I can at least say that watching how abnormal people behave during normal times makes me feel like my life is less abnormal now.

  4. Birx was responding to a question about Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Washington D.C., so her suggestion may have been directed to people specifically in those areas. If so, it makes sense. If there is going to be an increase in cases in those areas, as expected, then people should minimize their own exposure and their chance of infecting others. Did she need to add that if you are just about out of essential meds or food, then do what you need to do? Maybe. Most of us don’t need to be told that. And, there’s not much hope for those who instead would starve to death at home or eat their cat.
    But, even if she was speaking to the populace in general, minimizing exposure still makes sense, especially if there is an expected increase in the numbers of infected persons. Don’t add to that number unnecessarily.

  5. Is it that the next two weeks will see a sharp increase in deaths? If so, then it’s too late. Those people were infectious up to two weeks ago. If it’s that the next two weeks will see the largest exponential jump in infected persons, I can see cause for being perhaps extra vigilant – but to not buy groceries or meds? In Jack’s words: bite me.

    And with that, I’m off to Home Depot.

  6. I wonder how much of Trump’s statements are a result of inconsistencies from the scientists and other experts. Has the scientific community been weaponized to attack him politically?

    Trump does not make up what he says. He is told by “experts” their expected course of events and what are the best practices. Every executive relies on sound information. The executive makes decisions based on the information at hand.

    How can you listen (trust) to scientist “experts” when one says x and another says y. Moreover, if you repeat x then supporters of Y condemn you.

    I for one feel there is no need to pontificate about estimated deaths. Just say far too many so we have to do XY & Z to minimize them. Informing the public about infection rates in given areas makes sense as it can make people more diligent ir relieve anxiety. The mortality models are useful for emergency planners but not the general public.

    On a final note. Can any of us assess how well Fauci and Birx are handling the public information element? What if they are doing more damage than not? Imaging the reaction if either were replaced on the dias now. There would be calls for Trump’s head. Both are fully inoculated against any criticism of their work.

    They may be top in their fields but simply being the worlds greatest virologist or epidemiologist does not make you the best person to calm a fearful public.

    • But it evidently makes them prone to being a fear monger, CM. Well, them and the headline writers who only publish the vaunted computer models’ worst case numbers. Garbage in, garbage out. Too much speculation and not enough data. There’s a fair amount of data but it’s too early to have much information.*

      *Pirated from Mrs. OB’s (a retired IBMer) recounting their use of “We change data into information.”

      • OB
        I agree. Exactly what does projected death counts do other than create fear and panic.

        I want them to list the assumptions underlying the models they are using. We can throw out the 1-2 million dead figure because the assumptions are at this time false. What other assumptions are no longer valid.

        We cannot assess the validity of the experts statements if we don’t know upon what basis they have developed their models.

  7. Hooray! Let’s hear it for two things that seem to have vanished from the shelves lately: Skepticism and explication de texte! Nice work, Jack.

  8. Way back when, while I was in the Army, I was sent to NCO Leadership School, as if that is something that can be taught. In any case, one of the first things they drummed into my head was “Never give a command that you know cannot or will not be followed.” Apparently, the good Doctor Birx never learned this basic requirement for good leadership.

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