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Dr. Birx’s Fake Science Revealed in Her Own Words


In a previous article, I examined the murky circumstances behind the appointment of Dr. Deborah Birx as Coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Response Task Force on February 27, 2020.

Based on that examination, I surmise that Dr. Birx did not get the job due to her medical or public health experience – both of which were related mostly to AIDS, a virus entirely unlike SARS-CoV-2 in terms of how it spreads, how long it incubates, and how it should be managed. Nor did Birx have any training or publications in epidemiology or pandemic management. Rather, as Birx herself tells it, the National Security Council recruited and appointed her to the job, through Deputy National Security Advisor for Asia, Matt Pottinger

But why? Why would someone with no relevant medical or scientific background be appointed to a top pandemic-response position? The answer, I believe, is that Birx was installed in that position in order to impose the untested, unscientific, totalitarian pandemic mitigation measures copied directly from China – measures chosen by the biosecurity community because they feared the havoc and backlash of a leaked genetically altered virus. But that’s jumping too far ahead into the realm of speculation.

Taking a step back, before the speculative why, let’s examine a more concrete what: What were the predictably ineffectual and disastrous pandemic management measures imposed on us by Dr. Deborah Birx, and what was her rationale for imposing them?

The Dreaded Silent Spread

Everything Birx claims about the Covid pandemic, and all of her prescriptions for mitigating it, are based on a single idea, expressed repeatedly in her book, The Silent Spread:

“The distribution and spread of the virus would be far greater and far quicker [than the 2002/3 SARS virus] due to the undetected silent invasion I fundamentally believed was taking place across the globe.” (p. 28) 

In other words, as Birx explains, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was different from other flu-like viruses and previous pandemics because it was spreading faster, and it was less detectable as it was spreading. Why was it less detectable? Because most people who were infected had “a mild disease – another way to describe silent spread” (p. 92).

Let’s take another second to consider the words of Dr. Deborah Birx herself: silent spread means mild disease. The more silent spread, the more people are getting infected but experiencing mild to undetectable symptoms.

Transmissibility and fatality

If silent spread means most people have mild disease, why does Birx think SARS-CoV-2 is so dangerous that it merits shutting down the entire world and imposing unprecedented mitigation measures?

As she explains (p. 18), when we want to know how dangerous a virus is, we have to consider how easily and quickly it spreads, and how many people who are infected end up dying. But instead of looking at each of those factors separately, Birx conveniently conflates them:

“More exposure meant more infections, which meant a greater frequency of serious illness and death.” (p. 56)

In other words, the more people are infected, the more people will get seriously ill or die. But we just learned from Birx that most people who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 through silent spread had mild or no symptoms. So, by her own account, more infection does not necessarily mean more serious illness or death. 

It’s not rocket science. It’s not even Epidemiology 101. It’s just plain logic.

The Diamond Princess

Now let’s say we don’t want to resort to mere logic to refute Birx’s baseless implication that silent spread makes SARS-CoV-2 exceptionally dangerous. Suppose we look at what a world-renowned epidemiologist had to say in March 2020 about what silent spread means in terms of the overall danger posed by a novel coronavirus.

John Ioannidis is a Stanford professor and leading world expert in epidemiology, statistics and biomedical data, with hundreds of publications and expertise in precisely those areas that are crucial for understanding an emerging pandemic. He’s just the type of person you’d want advising you on how to evaluate the threat posed by a novel virus. 

In an article published March 17, 2020, Ioannidis explained that to figure out how dangerous a pathogen is, you need to calculate approximately how many people who get infected are going to die. 

Ioannidis used the Diamond Princess cruise ship to calculate an approximate fatality rate (the number of people who get infected and die) for SARS-CoV-2. He used the cruise ship because the passengers were quarantined for long enough to allow the virus to spread among them, and those with symptoms were tested for Covid. Seven people of the 700 who tested positive died. That’s a fatality rate of 1% (7/700). 

However, as Birx herself notes: “The documented spread was intense, going from 1 to 691 confirmed positives in only three weeks—and those were just the people with symptoms. If they had been testing more widely, among asymptomatic people, the real number could be two to three times greater: 1,200 to 1,800 infections.” (p. 46)

Ioannidis also thought that many untested people might have been infected. In which case, let’s say for example there were 1,400 untested but infected people, the fatality rate would go down to 0.33% (7/2,100). And if there were 2,800 untested but infected people, the fatality rate would be 0.2% (7/3,500). And so on. 

That’s what silent spread means for the fatality rate: the more the virus infects people without killing them, the less lethal it is. Which, in a rational world, would presumably mean we would need less drastic mitigation measures.

Birx, however, in one of her many feats of illogical counterfactual obfuscation, concludes that, because the measures she thinks are key to stopping the spread (masks and distancing) are actually not working to stop the spread, the virus is obviously spreading silently, which means we need to impose more of those measures: 

“Despite the measures the Japanese health ministry had put in place, this explosive growth was clear evidence of silent spread.” (p. 46)

Again, it sounds too absurd to be the basis for all the crazy Covid policies, but there it is. And, of course, Birx never follows her argument to its logical conclusions which are:

  1. If masking and distancing are not preventing silent spread, why are we imposing them?
  2. If most people are getting mild disease, why do we need universal mitigation measures in the first place?


Birx’s illogical insistence that silent spread makes the virus more dangerous leads her to an even more illogical monomaniacal focus on testing and case numbers.

Because, according to Birx, if silent spread is an evil in and of itself, the only way it can be combated is to make it less silent through testing. And the more cases there are, no matter how mild or asymptomatic, the more danger the virus supposedly poses. This powerfully simple assumption, however illogical in the context of silent spread, has been one of the ludicrous justifications for never-ending restrictions that continue to this day.

Apparently, Birx is unaware that the World Health Organization, in its guidelines for nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) for pandemic influenza, states clearly that:

“Evidence and experience suggest that in pandemic phase 6 (increased and sustained transmission in the general population), aggressive interventions to isolate patients and quarantine contacts, even if they are the first patients detected in a community, would probably be ineffective, not a good use of limited health resources, and socially disruptive.”

In other words, testing asymptomatic people and isolating them in order to stop or slow the spread of a pandemic respiratory virus that has already spread to the general population is not only pointless but potentially harmful. Moreover, the faster and more silently the virus has spread, the less useful testing and isolation become, because the virus is that much more widespread in the population already.

And, as Birx herself was frantic to warn everyone, including President Trump, in March 2020 when she started advocating for massive testing, “the virus is undoubtedly already circulating widely, below the radar, in the United States” (p. 3)

Masking and social distancing

So what about other measures? As discussed above, the Diamond Princess revealed to Birx that masking and social distancing cannot stop the “silent spread.” Yet somehow these are among her top mitigation strategies.

Birx says her certainty as to the effectiveness of masking and distancing came from her time in Asia during the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic. 

“I was doing work in Asia back in 2002 when the sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak began” (p. 9), she recalls. [NOTE: SARS actually stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, but here Birx replaces “severe” with “sudden” – just another tiny clue that scientific credibility is not a primary focus of the book.]

What she conveniently fails to tell us, is that she was not in China, where that outbreak originated, nor was she in any of the highly impacted Asian countries. Rather, she was in Thailand, working on an AIDS vaccine. She also omits the fun fact that there were 9 infections and 2 deaths in all of Thailand from that SARS virus.

Nevertheless, however far removed she actually was from the epicenter of the 2002-2004 outbreak, Birx confidently asserts:

“One of the things that had kept the SARS case fatality rate from being worse was that, in Asia, the population (young and old alike) adopted the wearing of masks routinely…. Masking was a normal behavior. Masks saved lives. Masks were good.”(p. 36) 

[ANOTHER NOTE ON ERRONEOUS SCIENTIFIC TERMINOLOGY: masks are not and have never been associated with lowering the case fatality rate (CFR) of any disease. CFR is how many people die once they are infected and fall ill. CFR is lowered by treatments that prevent ill people from dying. Masks, theoretically, may prevent people from getting infected. They cannot prevent death in the already ill.]

Birx displays the same certainty regarding social distancing: 

“Another strategy that suppressed the 2003 SARS outbreak was social distancing guidelines—limiting how close you got to other people, especially indoors… Along with wearing masks, these behavioral changes had the greatest effect on mitigating the SARS epidemic by limiting community spread and not letting the virus claim more lives.” (p. 37)

Birx provides no footnotes, citations, or any scientific evidence at all for these assertions or, for that matter, for any of her pseudo-scientific claims. As noted in Jeffrey Tucker’s astute review of The Silent Spread, there is not a single footnote in the entire book.

Yet, if we look at the scientific literature, we find that those who studied NPIs during the time of the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak came to the exact opposite conclusion. The WHO Working Group on International and Community Transmission of SARS concluded that:

“The 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was contained largely through traditional public health interventions, such as finding and isolating case-patients, quarantining close contacts, and enhanced infection control. The independent effectiveness of measures to ‘increase social distance’ and wearing masks in public places requires further evaluation.”

In other words, masking and social distancing were the interventions least proven to affect the spread or outcome of the SARS epidemic on which Birx claims to base her policies.

Strengthening this conclusion, in the WHO’s 2006 review of NPIs for flu pandemics, the recommendations state explicitly that:

“Mask wearing by the general population is not expected to have an appreciable impact on transmission, but should be permitted, as this is likely to occur spontaneously.”

Whatever justifications were found or invented for masking during Covid subsequent to Birx’s appointment to the White House Task Force, the ones on which she claims to have based her policies were bogus from the get-go. 

This is clearly of no concern to Birx, whose purpose in The Silent Spread is apparently not to convey sound scientific or public health principles. She’s much more concerned with showing how she and her co-lockdown-conspirator, Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger, were in total agreement about all the non-scientific mitigation measures independently of one another:

“Independently from me, Matt became the self-appointed White House prophet of mask wearing,” Birx proclaims. But, to her distress, “at the White House, Matt’s message about wearing masks to prevent silent spread had fallen on deaf ears.” (p. 36)

Which leads one to wonder: where did Pottinger, a journalist-turned intelligence agent, get his very strong opinions on the utility of masking to mitigate respiratory viral pandemics in general, and the Covid pandemic in particular?

According to Lawrence Wright’s non-scientific, largely anecdotal article in The New Yorker in December 2020, Pottinger got the idea while driving a stick-shift car, talking to a doctor in China, and scribbling notes on the back of an envelope (all at the same time!):

“On March 4th, as Matt Pottinger was driving to the White House, he was on the phone with a doctor in China. Taking notes on the back of an envelope while navigating traffic, he was hearing valuable new information about how the virus was being contained in China. The doctor… emphasized that masks were extremely effective with COVID, more so than with influenza. ‘It’s great to carry around your own hand sanitizer,’ the doctor said. ‘But masks are going to win the day.’”

Then, after getting this incredibly new and valuable information from an unnamed “doctor in China,” even as his parked car was sliding backward into a tree (he apparently forgot the emergency brake), Pottinger “kept thinking about masks.” Apparently, he was mesmerized by the idea. Why? Because he ‘thought it was evident that, wherever a large majority of people wore masks, contagion was stopped ‘dead in its tracks.’”

That’s pretty much it. Matt thought it was evident that masks had stopped the contagion in Hong Kong and Taiwan – based on what evidence we’ll probably never know – and therefore must be implemented everywhere.


In her “excruciating story” of the pandemic, The Silent Spread, Deborah Birx does not even try to make coherent scientific or public health policy arguments in favor of the Chinese-style totalitarian measures she advocated. Instead, she provides nonsensical, self-contradictory assertions – some downright false and others long disproven in the scientific literature.

I doubt Birx believes any of the fake science claims made in her book. Rather, as with the issue of how she was appointed in the first place, the entire narrative is a smoke screen or diversion, intended to draw attention away from who actually appointed her and why.

If we knew the answers to those two questions (by whom and why Birx was appointed), I believe we would find that:

– All of the devastating Chinese-style lockdown measures were imposed on the US and the world by government officials with no pandemic experience but lots of military and national security connections, more specifically biosecurity involvement.

– It was not the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its effects in the real world that concerned Birx, Pottinger and their bosses and counterparts in other countries. It was the worry or knowledge that the virus was engineered in a secretive and controversial gain-of-function research program. Since the global population had never been exposed to an engineered “enhanced pandemic potential pathogen” before, and since China claimed its policies were working, they insisted the situation required draconian measures that had never been used before. 

– Public health authorities and leaders in most countries were overruled by the national security/biosecurity contingent, due partly to the extreme danger that might be posed by the engineered virus, but also because the military and national security agencies had lots of solutions waiting for just this sort of problem. One example is the mRNA vaccine platforms that were used to develop Covid vaccines in Operation Warp Speed – a project in which a majority of leaders were employed by the Department of Defense [ref]. Another example is England’s controversial but highly lucrativenudge unit.”

The investigation into all of these crucial questions continues.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Debbie Lerman

    Debbie Lerman, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, has a degree in English from Harvard. She is a retired science writer and a practicing artist in Philadelphia, PA.

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