Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that the medical community might have underestimated the number of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic.
On Saturday night, Dr. Birx appeared on Fox News' "Justice with Judge Jeanine" to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. Host Jeanine Pirro questioned the early figures regarding the mortality rate of COVID-19.
In early March, the World Health Organization declared that the fatality rate for coronavirus was 3.4%. Birx admitted that the health community underestimated the number of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.
"I think we're learning every day about the virus and how it interacts with us as human hosts," Birx told Pirro. "And that's been very important, to constantly be triangulating data."
"I think we underestimated, very early on, the number of asymptomatic cases. And I think we're really beginning to understand there are people that get infected -- that those symptoms are so low-grade that they don't even know that they're infected," Birx explained. "And we're beginning to see that with the New York studies of their zero-antibody studies."
Pirro asked Birx if it was fair to attribute the cause of death of someone who already had preexisting conditions as COVID-19 if the person has coronavirus symptoms.
"This is a very complex virus, and I want to be very clear: It's highly transmissible, very infectious, and a lot of people have become infected," Birx responded. "And what we've known now from the very beginning, if you have co-morbidities, if you have heart disease, if you have diabetes, if you have asthma, if you have cancer, if you're immunosuppressed — all of those issues make you susceptible to a much more difficult course."
"And still we're seeing the majority of the people that we're losing to this disease have those other diseases that you just described," Birx added. "And so, I do believe that a lot of the diseases we're seeing in the hospital right now, yes, they may have preexisting conditions but those preexisting conditions are resulting in them having a much more serious course when they're infected with this virus."
Pirro later asked Birx if herd immunity is "essential to ultimately getting rid of this virus" until a vaccine is developed.
"We have to remember that in America, we have a lot of people, even young people with diabetes and asthma and hypertension," Birx replied. "And so protecting them really becomes very critical because they can have a very difficult course. And so if we knew everybody who would do well off — right immediately, then you could really have that discussion. But we don't know who has preexisting conditions when we see them on the street."
Judge Jeanine presses Dr. Birx on how coronavirus deaths are being recorded www.youtube.com