White House Coronavirus Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx Says She Will Retire After Biden Transition

Claudia Harmata
·3 min read

Alex Wong/Getty Dr. Deborah Birx

Dr. Deborah Birx is ready to retire.

In an interview with Newsy on Tuesday, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, 64, said that she would be available to help President-elect Joe Biden and his team with their pandemic response amid his transition, should she be needed, and then wind down her work.

"I will be helpful in any role that people think I can be helpful in, and then I will retire," Birx told the news outlet.

She added, "I only came into the White House to ensure that our COVID response could utilize whatever information I had from confronting pandemics around the globe."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Didn't Wait to Accept Biden's Offer to Join COVID-19 Team — 'Said Yes Right on the Spot'

Birx's comments come days after she addressed a controversy about her trip to Delaware over the Thanksgiving weekend, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging Americans to forgo holiday travel as it could increase the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Sunday, Birx told the Associated Press that she went to her Delaware property with family members to, as the AP described it, "deal with the winterization of the property before a potential sale."

"I did not go to Delaware for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving,” Birx said in a statement, though the AP noted that she also acknowledged sharing a meal with her family while there.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

In her interview with Newsy, Birx, who was the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and a well-respected public health official before the gauntlet of the pandemic, called the scrutiny around the Thanksgiving trip a "bit overwhelming."

"We never visited anyone, we never had anyone into the household. It was the same situation [as] if we had been here at home," she told Newsy, "but because of the perception it created, we obviously will not do that through any of the holiday seasons."

The coronavirus has also taken a toll on her family, she said.

"My parents stopped eating and drinking because they were so depressed. This is what's happening in households across America. And we're going to have to take time to ensure that not only they get vaccinated, but they can recover from the trauma of the last 10 months," Birx told Newsy.

Her public health credentials have been lauded, but Birx has also been criticized for how she navigated President Donald Trump's disinformation around the virus and refusal to publicly acknowledge its severity.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany shared a tweet on Tuesday night saying that the president "has great respect for Dr. Birx and likes her very much. We wish her well!"

Separately, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Birx's mentor and another key member of the White House coronavirus task force, accepted an offer from Biden to be his chief medical adviser for the administration’s COVID-19 team.

RELATED: Birx Tells Thanksgiving Travelers to ‘Assume That You Were Exposed’ to COVID and Get Tested

Alex Wong/Getty From left to right: Vice President Mike Pence, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx

Fauci, who was named one of PEOPLE's 2020 People of the Year, will also continue to serve as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a position he has served in since the Reagan administration in the late 1980s.

"I said yes right on the spot," Fauci, 79, told the Today show.

Fauci said then he agreed with Biden’s proposal to encourage 100 days of mask-wearing across the country once he takes office in late January.