Dr. Deborah Birx has reportedly become "distressed" about her role on the White House coronavirus task force, sources close to her told CNN.
Those familiar with her thinking say Birx views the latest high-profile member of the task force, Scott Atlas, as an "unhealthy influence" on President Donald Trump's thinking.
Birx was a staple at White House press briefings early on in the pandemic, but has recently been conspicuously absent.
Dr. Deborah Birx has reportedly become "distressed" with her role on the White House coronavirus task force and raised doubts over how much longer she will remain on the team, sources close to her told CNN.
Particularly, Birx sees the latest high-profile member of the task force, Scott Atlas, as an "unhealthy influence" on President Donald Trump, according to people familiar with her thinking.
"The President has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe. There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished," a source said to CNN.
Trump scooped up Atlas, who has no expertise in epidemiology or infectious diseases, last month to serve as a top pandemic adviser. A neuroradiologist, Atlas works as a healthcare policy fellow at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution think tank.
In the lead-up to his appointment, Atlas frequently made appearances on Fox News touting a controversial coronavirus strategy known as herd immunity. This marks the stage when enough people in a population have developed resistance to a virus — whether through exposure or through a vaccine — to interrupt its transmission. The Washington Post reported that Atlas is urging the White House to adopt the method, which health experts including Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, have staunchly advised against, citing concerns of excessive deaths.
Trump himself has floated the idea, but hasn't signaled any decisions for implementation.
Atlas has since shut down claims of a push for a herd immunity strategy. At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, he also denied allegations that his relationship with Birx was fractious.
Birx and Fauci, however, were missing from the briefing. After being staples at news conferences early on in the pandemic, they appear to have been nudged out of the spotlight in recent months.
Birx and Fauci have communicated with the public in other ways. Birx traveled state-to-state across the American south and southwest, where the virus has taken a heavy toll, providing information on the White House's coronavirus response. Meanwhile, Fauci and other leading public health officials testified in front of the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, sharing updates on a COVID-19 vaccine. He has also been widely interviewed by TV channels and other news outlets.
Though sources told CNN that Birx feels sidelined in her position, one noted that she is unlikely to step down from the task force.
"She is a good soldier. I don't think she's going anywhere," the source said.
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