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Birx says she plans to retire, citing strain on family

More infectious COVID strain has likely reached the U.S.
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Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, says she plans to retire in the near future, capping a tumultuous run as one of the top U.S. officials guiding the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with the news outlet Newsy on Tuesday, Birx, 64, cited the strain the experience has put on her family. Birx was criticized after The Associated Press reported on Sunday that she spent time with family members at a vacation home after the Thanksgiving holiday, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance urging Americans not to travel or mix with those outside their own household.

"This experience has been a bit overwhelming. It's been very difficult on my family. I think what was done in the last week to my family — you know, they didn't choose this for me," Birx told Newsy. "They've tried to be supportive, but to drag my family into this when it's — my daughter hasn't left that house in 10 months. My parents have been isolated for 10 months."

Birx said her parents have "become deeply depressed, as I'm sure many elderly have, as they've not been able to see their sons, their granddaughters."

"My parents haven't seen their surviving son for over a year," she continued. "These are all very difficult things."

Deborah Birx
Deborah Birx seen Friday, June 26, 2020. Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Birx said she wants the "Biden administration to be successful" and will "be helpful in any role that people think I can be helpful in."

"And then I will retire," she said.

The incoming Biden administration has invited Dr. Anthony Fauci, another current task force member, to advise Mr. Biden on COVID-19, as the vaccine rollout begins in the U.S. 

Birx explained her travel to Delaware in an earlier statement to CBS News.

"My trip to Delaware after the Thanksgiving holiday solely focused on preparing the property for a potential sale. Members of my immediate household assisted in that as well," she said. "As some members of my immediate family could be at risk for COVID-19, I am extremely vigilant in taking all precautions to protect them. I self-isolate, I wear a mask, and I get tested when I interact with them. My family and I follow and practice CDC guidelines, and I encourage all Americans, especially those in situations similar to mine, to do the same."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wished Birx well in a tweet, although Birx did not say she is leaving immediately.

"President @realDonaldTrump has great respect for Dr. Birx and likes her very much. We wish her well!" McEnany tweeted. 

Kristin Brown contributed to this report.

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