Dr. Deborah Birx: "To be cavalier about getting repetitive COVID infections is really a huge mistake"

In the latest installment of Chris Cuomo's long COVID series, he interviewed Dr. Deborah Birx, former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator in the Trump administration, and currently Senior Fellow, George W. Bush Institute and Adjunct Professor, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. Dr. Birx first discusses some of the mistakes that she and others leading the response made during the first year of the pandemic. She posits that "the number one thing" that went wrong was that folks in leadership "weren't willing to really understand that COVID was a very different virus than flu." She continues:

"You can't use 19th century symptomatic tracking of viruses when we have 21st century technology. So we were late to testing, we were late to really talking about asymptomatic spread, and we were very late in recognizing the aerosol nature of this virus, which still lives with us today. And that's why it still spreads so easily indoors, because it remains suspended. It was never flu. It will never be flu."

Birx also discusses the growing research about long COVID and the ways it negatively affects various bodily systems and processes, and urges folks to try to avoid getting infected repeatedly: 

"Long COVID predates any of our COVID vaccines . . We're learning something different every single month about what this virus capable of doing. From what it's capable to do neurologically and neurologically in the long term, what it's capable to do to our mitochondria—and that's this muscle problem that we're seeing—what it's capable of doing with micro-clots. To pretend that we know everything that this virus is doing and to be cavalier about getting repetitive covid infections is really a huge mistake."

Finally, she discusses some of the ways in which comparing COVID to HIV makes sense:

 "The reason the comparison to HIV is important is because HIV was also asymptomatic. I mean, you couldn't see the virus through symptoms because people were infected for 7, 8, 9 years before they developed symptoms. But HIV quietly destroyed our immune system. And we learned a lot about immunology from HIV and it's changed completely our cancer therapy. We're learning now about mitochondria and viral impact and brain fog and the changes in our neurons and the cells that nourish our neurons that really allow us to think and move. And we're learning that because of what long COVID has done, and so there's 2 sides of this coin every time. There's a lot of destruction that mild and moderate COVID can do that is unseen, just like HIV was destroying our immune system. But what came out of that is brilliant science that changed how we treated HIV. And if you're diagnosed today, you can live a very normal life span. And people not only survive but thrive. We need to get to the place where we've done the research, so that people with long COVID can not only survive but thrive."