White House coronavirus adviser Deborah Birx defends Thanksgiving trip to holiday home
Dr. Deborah Birx speaks during a November Coronavirus Task Force press conference
White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx has defended family travel to her Delaware vacation home the day after Thanksgiving and has insisted on preparing the property for a "potential sale".
The government adviser, who advised Americans to be "vigilant" and limit the holiday celebrations to "your immediate household," went to the Fenwick Island property with three generations of her family from two different households.
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She was accompanied by her husband Paige Reffe, one of her daughters, her son-in-law and two grandchildren during the 50-hour stay. Dr. Birx refused to speak to the Associated Press, which first covered the trip on Monday.
Dr. Birx declined to be interviewed by the news agency, but said in a statement that the people at the gathering were all part of their "immediate household" but lived in two different houses.
In another statement to Fox News, she insisted her family "didn't hold a Thanksgiving celebration at all this year," and said members of her family were helping prepare the house for a possible sale.
She added, "[My parents] live with me in my immediate household in Potomac, which is where my daughter and her family live.
"We all support one another and take care of one another during this difficult time. My trip to Delaware after Thanksgiving was focused solely on preparing the property for a possible sale. Members of my immediate household also helped with this."
Dr. Birx said her busy schedule meant she didn't have time to prepare the property for winter before the Thanksgiving holidays.
Their trip came as new coronavirus cases surfaced in the United States and the Centers for Disease Control Center asked Americans to stay home for this year's vacation.
"People who are not currently living in your housing unit, such as students returning home from school on vacation, should be viewed as part of different households," the CDC advised at the time.
Dr. Birx said everyone on her Delaware trip is part of her "immediate household," despite acknowledging that they live in two different homes.
She initially called the Potomac house a "three-generation household (previously four generations)". White House officials later said it was still a four-generation household, a distinction that Dr. Birx as part of the house.
Dr. Birx's own experiences underscore the complexity and difficulty of trying to cope with the dangers of the pandemic while at the same time reconciling work, family and health.
However, critics said it should be kept at a higher level because of its high profile role within the government.
"To me, this means that she is excluded from any future government health position," said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist at the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security.
"It is a terrible message for any public health worker to send to the American people."
Additional coverage from Associated Press
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Dr. Birx was traveling for Thanksgiving time, although he had advised against it
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