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White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Deborah Birx with President Trump at the White House in August. Photo: Andrew Harnik/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said in a memo Monday first obtained by the Washington Post that the U.S. is "entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic."

Why it matters: In the memo on the eve of the election, Birx contradicts President Trump's repeated claims that the U.S. is "rounding the corner" in the virus fight, as she calls for "much more aggressive action" on the COVID-19 response.

  • Her comments come after NIAID director Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post in an interview Friday that the U.S. was "in for a whole lot of hurt" going into the fall and winter, prompting Trump to suggest he may seek to fire the career civil servant.

Driving the news: "This is not about lockdowns — It hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April," Birx said in the memo, per WashPost and the New York Times.

  • "It's about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented."
  • Another report dated Oct. 17 — when Trump held rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin — notes that an increase in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 is "not due to increased testing but broad and ever increasing community spread."
"There is an absolute necessity of the Administration to use this moment to ask the American people to wear masks, physical distance and avoid gatherings in both public and private spaces."

Worth noting: Unlike Fauci, Birx hasn't publicly clashed with Trump over COVID-19. She's known for taking a more measured approach to gain influence — strategically emphasizing the points Trump wants to hear and playing multiple angles on any given issue, per Axios' Jonathan Swan.

The big picture: Cases have been surging to record highs across the country in the past few weeks.

  • More than 231,500 people have died from COVID-19 and nearly 9.3 million have tested positive for the virus, Johns Hopkins data shows.

What they're saying: The White House did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment. But White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah defended the Trump administration's response, saying "[w]e are working around-the-clock to safely treat the virus and ultimately defeat it," according to WashPost.

  • She said the White House has "significantly increased" supplies of personal protective equipment, purchased 150 million COVID-19 tests, distributing them to vulnerable populations, "sent special teams to states and nursing homes with the most cases," develop vaccines and "safely rush therapeutics" to the sick, per WashPost.

Go deeper

Updated 20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus may have been in U.S. in December 2019, study finds — Hospital crisis deepens as holiday season nears.
  2. Politics: Bipartisan group of senators unveil $908 billion COVID stimulus proposalFDA chief was called to West Wing to explain why agency hasn't moved faster on vaccine — The words that actually persuade people on the pandemic
  3. Vaccine: Moderna to file for FDA emergency use authorizationVaccinating rural America won't be easy — Being last in the vaccine queue is young people's next big COVID test.
  4. States: Cuomo orders emergency hospital protocols as New York's COVID capacity dwindles.
  5. World: European regulators to assess first COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 29
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The state of play of the top vaccines.
13 hours ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveils $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.