Trump White House COVID-19 coordinator Deborah Birx

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Former White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said most coronavirus deaths in the United States were avoidable, during a CNN interview for a documentary scheduled to air Sunday.

In an excerpt from "Covid War: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out," Birx said that while many deaths in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic were likely inevitable, the lethality of later waves could have been greatly reduced if the U.S. had "mitigated earlier ... paused earlier and actually done" greater social distancing and shutdown measures.

"I look at it this way," Birx told CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. "The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially."

In March 2020, Birx and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that nearly 240,000 would die from the coronavirus if precautions were not taken. To date, there are nearly 550,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracker.

In December, Birx said she would retire from her position as White House coronavirus coordinator amid the Biden administration's transition into government. The move was widely seen in response to her tarnished reputation among Democrats, who saw her as an enabler of the Trump administration's COVID-19 strategy.

"The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers," Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said in a tweet responding to Birx's recent comments. "And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him."

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