The United States appears to be turning on another of its top coronavirus experts as it approaches five million infections and 160,000 deaths.

For months, supporters of President Donald Trump, a Republican, have been souring on Dr Anthony Fauci, who has frequently and very publicly contradicted Trump.

Last month, White House officials went so far as to distribute a list of times Fauci had been wrong during the pandemic.

Now something similar is happening to the co-ordinator of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr Deborah Birx. This time, however, the backlash is coming from the other side of politics.

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Birx, 64, is a physician who served as America's Global Aids Co-ordinator under Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

You might remember her as the expert who had to sit a couple of metres away from Trump, looking vaguely horrified, as he mused about treating the virus by bringing "very powerful light" inside the body and injecting people with disinfectant.

That was back in April. Since then, Birx has quietly continued in her role, while Fauci has been increasingly sidelined.

Late last week, Politico reported House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in Washington, had "let loose" on Birx during a meeting with White House officials, accusing the task force co-ordinator of spreading "misinformation" on Trump's behalf.

"Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you're in," Pelosi reportedly said.

She added that Fauci had "come to his senses and is now a hero".

Pelosi has been asked about those comments in a couple of TV interviews since.

"I think the President is spreading disinformation about the virus. And she is his appointee. So I don't have confidence there, no," she briefly told ABC News.

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In a longer exchange with CNN host Jim Sciutto, Pelosi went into more detail about what she had said.

White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Dr Deborah Birx, left, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House. Photo / AP
White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Dr Deborah Birx, left, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House. Photo / AP

"You said this weekend that you don't have confidence in someone who is part of the administration's leading – helping lead the administration's response to this, in White House adviser Dr Deborah Birx," Sciutto said.

"That's right. I said that," Pelosi conceded.

"Given that she has differed with the President on a number of issues where he's just flat out wrong, based on the facts, including hydroxychloroquine, etc. I just wonder, why single her out?" Sciutto asked.

"What happened is that we had a conversation about how we stop the virus, and when we did, they were making contentions about how tracing isn't a valuable thing, we shouldn't do it. I said, 'Well, that's not what most scientists say,'" Pelosi said.

"And then they said, 'We'll bring a scientist to say that,' and I said, 'Make sure it's not Dr Birx, because I don't have confidence in anyone who stands there while the President says swallow Lysol and it's going to cure your virus. And you know, it'll cure you, and you won't have the virus anymore.

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"I'm not (going to) have confidence in somebody, when the President says it's a hoax, it's magic, it's going to go away by magic, it's a miracle, and all of those things."

"So you're saying she hasn't challenged his disinformation enough?" Sciutto asked.

"No, I think she has enabled. But it's not about her, it's about the American people," Pelosi said.

"This administration has not had a strategic plan for the six months that we've known about the coronavirus.

"If the President is saying these things, who is advising him that this is okay and enabling that to happen?"

Birx herself went on CNN over the weekend, after Pelosi's initial comments emerged, and responded diplomatically.

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"I have tremendous respect for the Speaker, and I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people," she said, going on to defend her record.

"I have never been called Pollyannish (excessively optimistic), or non-scientific, or non-data driven. And I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilising data to really implement better programmes to save more lives."

She also issued a grim assessment of the situation in the US, saying the virus was "extraordinarily widespread" and the country had entered a "new phase".

Meanwhile, Trump reacted to Pelosi on Twitter, accusing her of saying "horrible" things about Birx.

The US President also took a swing of his own at Birx, saying she "took the bait" from Pelosi with her somewhat pessimistic appraisal of the pandemic.

Trump was asked to elaborate during today's coronavirus briefing at the White House.

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"You said Dr Birx was 'taking bait' from Speaker Pelosi. What did you mean by that, considering that she was just describing the facts of the case of the pandemic across the country right now?" a reporter asked.

"Well, I think we're doing very well. And I think we have done as well as any nation," said Trump.

"If you really look, if you take a look at what's going on – especially now, with all these flare-ups in nations that they were talking about – and don't forget, we are much bigger, other than India and China," said Trump.

"China's having a massive flare-up right now. India's having a massive problem. Other countries have problems, and I noticed that, in the news, in the evening news, I never read about that. In any of the news. I don't read about the other countries. You're starting to see that other countries are having very big flare-ups. Countries that thought they were over it.

"Like we thought we might be over it in Florida, and then it comes back. They do come back.

"I think we're doing very well. I told Dr Birx I think we're doing very well. She was in my office a little while ago. She's a person I have a lot of respect for. I think Nancy Pelosi's treated her very badly. Very, very badly. Very nasty.

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"And I'm just referring to the fact that I thought that, really they should say the job we've done, whether it's on ventilators or testing – we've tested now over 60 million people. No other country is even close to that.

"I think we're just doing very well."

He mentioned "flare-ups" of the virus in China and India there.

Trump is correct about India, which is currently recording more than 50,000 new infections and hundreds of deaths each day.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, and White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Dr Deborah Birx. Photo / AP
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, and White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Dr Deborah Birx. Photo / AP

On the other hand, China's official infection rate has remained low and steady since it claimed to have beaten the virus back in February and March. Whether the Chinese government's figures can be trusted is certainly up for debate.

It has reported a grand total of two deaths since the middle of April.

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At another point in the briefing, Trump once again cited "flare-ups" in other nations – including Australia – to justify his opposition to a lockdown in the US.

"It's important for all Americans to recognise that a permanent lockdown is not a viable path toward producing the result that you want, or certainly not a viable path forward, and ultimately would inflict more harm than it would prevent," he said.

"As we're seeing in foreign countries around the world, where cases are once again surging. You have many places where we thought they were under control and doing a great job – and they are doing a great job. But this is a very tough, invisible enemy.

"Lockdowns do not prevent infection in the future. They just don't. It comes back. Many times, it comes back. The purpose of a lockdown is to buy time to build capacity, especially with respect to hospitals, learn more about the disease, and develop effective treatments, as we did in the United States. We're doing very well with the vaccines and the therapeutics.

"Countries where there have been very significant flare-ups over the last short period of time are Spain, Germany, France, Australia, Japan and also, as you probably heard, in Hong Kong they've had some very serious flare-ups.

"We must focus on protecting those at highest risk, while allowing younger and healthier Americans to resume work and school."

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Let's look at those examples he mentioned in more detail.

At the start of June, Spain had brought its daily case numbers down into the low hundreds. But in the last week, that has risen to more than 2000 new infections per day. It recorded nine deaths yesterday.

At the peak of Germany's epidemic, it was dealing with more than 6000 new cases a day. At the moment, its daily numbers are hovering between 600 and 1100. It suffered two deaths yesterday.

France is in the middle of a sharper spike. Yesterday it recorded 2800 cases, and its daily death rate is in the teens.

Australia has gone from a daily case number in the single digits in early June to more than 400 infections per day now. The death toll has almost doubled in a month.

Japan was down to a few dozen cases each day throughout May and June, but is now stuck between about 800 and 1400. Its death toll is still negligible by global standards.

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Hong Kong is currently enduring its worst spike of the pandemic, with a little over 100 cases a day. On August 1 it recorded its highest ever number of deaths, with six.

Of course, these figures all pale in comparison to the United States, which is approaching five million confirmed infections and 160,000 deaths.

The US is recording between 50,000 and 70,000 cases a day, and about 1000 deaths.