White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Tuesday she will retire after helping the federal government transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. “I will be helpful in any role people think I can be helpful in,” she told Newsy. “And then I will retire.” She added: “I will be helpful through a period of time. And then I will have to say that this experience has been a bit overwhelming. It’s been very difficult on my family.”
The reference to her family was evidently prompted by an Associated Press report Sunday on Birx traveling to her vacation home on Delaware’s Fenwick Island over Thanksgiving, accompanied by three generations of her family from two households. Birx had urged Americans to limit their holiday festivities to their “immediate household;” she told AP that everyone on the trip was part of her “immediate household” and the visit was not “for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving” but to winterize the property for a potential sale.
Birx joined the coronavirus task force in February, and she has put in long hours poring over data, traveling the country to meet with state and local officials, drafting guidelines, and preparing presentations on the pandemic for senior White House officials, The New York Times reports. She has also faced criticism for, among other things, appearing to ingratiate herself with President Trump and painting an overly rosy assessment of the pandemic for him and his top aides.
Biden has named Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, as his chief medical adviser, but “the president-elect’s team has hesitated to bring Birx on board — with critics voicing concerns about her credibility and accusing her of at times being overly deferential to Trump,” Politico reports. Birx worked in Fauci’s lab earlier in her long career, and the two remain close.
Birx, 64, told Politico over text message that she hasn’t set a date for her retirement, but she does plan to step down. “I want to ensure the transition goes well,” she wrote, “meaning I will stay as long as needed and then retire.” Peter Weber