Speaking via conference call, a recording of which The Daily Beast obtained, Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator, relayed fears that the yelling by protesters could potentially negate the health benefits of wearing a mask, and that the destruction of testing sites at those protests would set back efforts to contain the virus’ spread. Birx said that 70 such sites had been destroyed, which had already resulted in an appreciable dip in testing rates there. She advised governors to “scramble now to make sure there is testing available in urban areas.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who hosted the call, bluntly conceded that protest-related infection spikes were “an issue our team is following and there is a concern.”
Those remarks echoed similar fears raised by coronavirus task force officials, including CDC Director Robert Redfield, during a telephone call with governors last week, a recording of which The Daily Beast also obtained. In that June 3 call, Birx said while she, like Pence, did not see a big surge in coronavirus cases over Memorial Day weekend, she was concerned that large metro areas—ones already struggling to stabilize case numbers—would experience an uptick in cases because of the protests.