Dr. Deborah Birx traveled with family out of state over Thanksgiving weekend — disregarding her own advice to stay home and not gather during the holidays, according to a report.
The White House coronavirus response coordinator was joined by three different generations of family at one of her vacation properties on Fenwick Island in Delaware on Nov. 27, just one day after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Associated Press reported.
The group — which included her husband Paige Reffe, a daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren — were from two separate households.
Birx — who has a home in Washington D.C. and another in Potomac, Maryland — defended the trip saying that she needed to take care of winterizing the property before a potential sale.
“I did not go to Delaware for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving,” Birx said in a statement.
She argued the members of the trip belong to her “immediate household,” though acknowledged that they live in separate homes.
Birx had urged people in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to keep gatherings to “your immediate household.”
“I don’t like it to be any number,” Birx said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“Because you know, if you say it can be 10, and it’s eight people from four different families, then that probably is not the same degree of safe as 10 people from your immediate household.”
Birx said that at the time that every American is obligated to make sacrifices to stop the spread of the virus.
“I’m making the personal sacrifices not to infect my parents and my pregnant daughter, and there’s a lot of people out there who know how to protect one another, and we just need to make sure we’re all doing that,” Birx said at the time.
But her trip came to light from a relative, who said they had concerns about her social distancing during the pandemic, the AP said.
Kathleen Flynn, whose brother is married to Birx’s daughter, said that the behavior makes her concerned for her own parents.
“She cavalierly violated her own guidance,” Flynn said of Birx, whom she has never met.
One of the sources of friction has been Birx’s visits to the Potomac home, where her elderly parents, daughter and grandchildren live.
Flynn’s mother — who is the kids’ other grandmother — regularly travels there to watch them before returning home to her 92-year-old husband, who has health complications.
But Flynn’s father, Richard Flynn, said he trusted Birx to make the correct decisions.
“Dr. Birx is very conscientious and a very good doctor and scientist from everything I can see,” he said.
Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University’s law school who knows Birx professionally, also said he’s confident that she took it upon herself to take appropriate precautions for Thanksgiving travel — but feared that her behavior may send the wrong message to Americans.
“It’s extraordinarily important for the leaders of the coronavirus response to model the behavior that they recommend to the public,” Gostin said.
“We lose faith in our public health officials if they are saying these are the rules but they don’t apply to me.”
With Post wires