Amid rising cases in 18 states and renewed concerns about coronavirus outbreaks, top task force medical experts, including coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, have remained largely out of view in recent weeks. Their absence coincides with the White House shifting of attention from addressing the health ramifications of coronavirus to reopening states and resuming campaign rallies.
Once a daily occurrence, the White House coronavirus task force briefings halted abruptly on April 27. While Fauci has maintained a relatively busy schedule of media appearances, including interviews on CNN and ABC last week, Birx and other officials have kept a much lower profile and have not spoken at official White House events in weeks.
The White House communications office largely handles media booking requests for task force members, including Fauci, Birx, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The task force, which met nearly every day in March and April, has been meeting behind closed doors approximately once a week since mid-May, with two meetings last week.
CNN’s booking team reaches out to the White House each week to request an appearance from any task force member for any CNN show.
Birx last spoke publicly on May 29, appearing at a roundtable with industry executives, where she briefly spoke about testing sites, and noted new hospitalization and mortality rates were down. She participated in interviews with ABC News and Fox News on May 24.
On May 22, Birx made an appearance in the briefing room alongside press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, discussing mortality rates and asymptomatic spread, and taking questions on nursing homes, places of worship and hydroxychloroquine.
Birx and Fauci stood behind Trump on May 15 when he made an announcement on vaccine development, but neither spoke. Birx did take a question from the press on reopening during a May 7 meeting with the President and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, in the Oval Office, and she was present for a May 6 meeting with Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa. Birx also took some questions at a May 6 National Nurses Day proclamation signing in the Oval Office. She also appeared on CNN during a May 7 town hall.
Amid questions of whether the task force would be disbanded in early May, Trump was asked whether Fauci and Birx would still be involved.
“Oh, sure. Yeah. They will be, and so will other doctors and so will other experts in the field,” he said.
Birx participates in the weekly governors’ teleconference on coronavirus response. According to a readout from the vice president’s office, she “provided an update on data coordination and testing” last Monday. There is a call scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET Monday.
Officials who have appeared on television on the administration’s behalf in recent days, including Peter Navarro, Kevin Hassett, Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow, have noted in passing that they’ve spoken with health experts for an update before their hits.
During his appearance on CNN Friday, Fauci was shown a clip in which Kudlow said he “spoke to our health experts at some length last evening. They were saying there is no second spike.”
“I have not spoken to Larry Kudlow. I was not one of the people he spoke to,” Fauci told CNN.
McEnany has also suggested she’s spoken with Birx before briefings.
During a May 12 briefing, McEnany was pressed on when Birx and Fauci might brief again.
“You hear from these experts regularly out on television. And, you know, we’ll see the next time they’re up here in this capacity, but they – we certainly have valued their time and we continue to value their time,” she said.
Pressed again, she said: “Yeah, again, you know, I don’t know when in this capacity you will see her, but I talk to Dr. Birx regularly.”