Fauci testifies on coronavirus response

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 2:42 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020
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10:15 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci "cautiously optimistic" US could have safe and effective vaccine in late fall or early winter

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers that while one can "never guarantee the safety or effectiveness" of a vaccine, he is "cautiously optimistic" that the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Moderna and his agency will be successful.

"We hope that by the time we get into late fall and early winter, we will have in fact a vaccine that we can say that would be safe and effective. One can never guarantee the safety or effectiveness unless you do the trial, but we are cautiously optimistic this will be successful," Fauci said.

"Because in the early studies with humans, the phase one study, it clearly showed that individuals who are vaccinated mounted a neutralizing antibody response that was at least comparable and in many respects better than what we see in convalescent serum from individuals who have recovered from Covid-19," Fauci added.

Some background: The phase three clinical trial of the vaccine discussed by Fauci began Monday.

The investigational vaccine was developed by the biotechnology company Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial will be conducted at nearly 100 US research sites, according to Moderna. The first patient was dosed at a site in Savannah, Georgia.

The trial is expected to enroll about 30,000 adult volunteers and evaluates the safety of the Moderna/NIH vaccine and whether it can prevent symptomatic Covid-19 after two doses, among other outcomes.

Volunteers will receive either two 100-microgram injections of the vaccine or a placebo about 28 days apart. Investigators and participants will not know who has received the vaccine.


10:06 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

These are the 4 areas of focus in health officials' Covid-19 plan, according to Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outlined four key points to the National Institutes of Health's strategic plan to addressing Covid-19.

The four areas the agency has focused on are:

  1. The improvement of fundamental knowledge of the virus
  2. The development of diagnostics
  3. The testing of therapeutics
  4. Development and testing of vaccines

Today's hearing is centered on the need to develop a national plan to contain coronavirus.


11:02 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Ranking Republican says Trump's "effective" Covid-19 plan has helped keep "Americans safe"

The House subcommittee's ranking member, Rep. Steve Scalise, dismissed assertions that the US lacks a national plan to combat coronavirus and called the hearing's title a "false political narrative."

In his opening remarks, Scalise held up a stack of documents he said were a few of the guidelines published by the Trump administration and his agencies to show states how to safely reopen. The Republican said that those claiming the US does not have a plan perhaps have not read the "different components" of the plan.

"You wouldn't even be here if there wasn't a plan, because you are the people tasked with carrying out the plan. In fact, if you were sidelined you wouldn't be here either. And I know some people want to suggest that but maybe they haven't spent time reading different components of the plan. These are just a few, by the way, a few of the documents that your agencies have published to show states how to safely reopen, to show schools how to safely reopen," Scalise said.

"To show nursing homes how to care for their patients, which by the way, if all governors would have followed those guidelines, thousands more seniors in nursing homes would be alive today if just five governors would have followed your plan that was developed by President Trump and is being carried out by you and your teams effectively every day," he said. "Let me thank you on behalf of the millions of American people who are alive today who wouldn't be alive if you weren't carrying out President Trump's effective plan to keep Americans safe."


10:06 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Subcommittee chair: "We need to identify and correct past failures"

The House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis is holding a hearing this morning on "The Urgent Need For A National Plan To Contain The Coronavirus.” The panel just began.

"My goal today is simple. To hear from our nation's top public health experts on what steps we need to take to stop the unnecessary deaths of more Americans, " Chair James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, said in his opening remarks.

"To improve our response, we need to identify and correct past failures. Especially those that are ongoing," he added.

"Regrettably, nearly six months after this virus claimed its first American life, the federal government has still not yet developed and implemented a national strategy to protect the American people," Clyburn said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, is testifying in person.

The other witnesses include Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services. They are also testifying in person.

The health experts are expected to be grilled on Covid-19 testing, school reopenings and the development of a vaccine.


9:14 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

SOON: Fauci and other health experts will answer questions about "urgent need" for a plan to contain Covid-19

The House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis is holding a hybrid hearing this morning at 9:00 a.m ET titled "The Urgent Need For A National Plan To Contain The Coronavirus.”

The hearing comes as the US reports more than 1,000 people died in the country yesterday from Covid-19, the highest number of daily coronavirus deaths in more than a month, a statement posted on the hearing's website says.

Witnesses include:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health
  • Dr. Robert Redfield, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, US Department of Health and Human Services

The three witnesses last appeared before Congress on June 30.

According to the House subcommittee's website, after the Trump administration "initially declined" to make witnesses requested by the subcommittee available, Chair Rep. James Clyburn wrote to the vice president and the secretary of health and human services on July 14 saying:

"It is imperative that Congress and the American people hear directly from the federal government’s top health experts about how the administration intends to address this dire situation.”

Safety precautions: Face coverings are required in the hearing room, and entry will not be permitted without a face covering, the subcommittee's website said.

In addition, seating arrangements will be “in accordance with social distancing guidelines” and “every effort should be made [to] adhere to six-foot social distancing guidelines.”

9:10 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Trump official overseeing Covid-19 testing expected to be grilled on slow turnaround times

From CNN's Shelby Lin Erdman

The Trump administration official overseeing critical coronavirus testing is expected to be pressed this morning on why turnaround times are still too long in the United States.

During CNN’s coronavirus town hall yesterday, Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said testing is improving but not as good as he wants it to be.

"It shouldn't be acceptable," he said, that the United States is so backlogged on coronavirus testing.

He tried to defend the state of testing in the US after large testing companies such as Quest Diagnostics reported it can take seven days or more to run tests and get results back to people.

“Nationally, about 25% of tests are point-of-care so that's about 15 minutes. Another 25% are done in local hospitals … That's generally a quick turnaround,” Giroir said.

But he conceded there is a backlog that’s rendering some coronavirus testing practically useless.

“Where we really talk about it is the big commercial labs and there's no question they've been strained, and Quest has been strained more than the other commercial labs,” he said.

“Our data right now, and this is the worst week, is that 56%, are back within three days, 76% are back within five days,” he added.

Pooling samples from four or five people can speed things up and save resources, Giroir said.

“I've said and I've said before — I want the perfect test. I want it to be perfectly sensitive and specific and back within 15 minutes. That's why we're really working towards more point-of-care but again it is a work in progress, because of the tremendous demand,” Giroir said.

By September, Giroir said he expects half of all tests in the US to be point-of-care tests, but he warned, “You can’t test your way out of this.” People must also use masks, avoid crowds and avoid being indoors with others, he said.

8:54 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

It is time for US to reset its national Covid-19 response, experts at Johns Hopkins say

From CNN's Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna and Madeline Holcombe

The United States needs to restart its response with policy actions at the federal, state and local levels to get control of the pandemic, scholars at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security said in a report.

"Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic," the report says. "It is time to reset."

The report includes 10 recommendations that include universal mask mandates, federal leadership to improve testing and, in places where rates of transmission are worsening, stay-at-home orders.

Here are some key suggestions:

  • Masks: The report says federal, state and local leaders should mandate non-medical mask use in public and limit large indoor gatherings.
  • Lockdowns: States should stop high-risk activities and settings in areas that have rising test positivity but no signs of crisis in hospitals or rising deaths. In areas where the situation is worse, stay-at-home orders should be reinstated, the report says.
  • Testing: The report points to improved testing being vital. The US response to the epidemic will be severely constrained without a reliable and efficient testing system, the report says. One of the things the authors suggest to combat this is having the federal government work with states and commercial labs to identify and overcome obstacles to getting quick test results.

The report also gives recommendations about personal protective equipment, epidemiological data, funding research agendas, contact tracing, identifying best practices for improving public health response and developing policies and practices to protect group institutions.

Fauci told MSNBC he didn't believe moving back to a complete shutdown is necessary.

"I think psychologically that would be really very difficult for people to accept," he said. He advised that states and communities could "backtrack a little" in order to "regain your footing." Then the next reopening should be done with more caution, he said.

8:45 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

"Impossible to predict" how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last, Fauci says

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Without a national effort to adhere to preventative measures, it will be impossible to predict how much longer the Covid-19 pandemic will last in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

The US is seeing a resurgence of coronavirus infections after states began reopening their economies, with the number of cases now at more than 4.4 million and the death toll at 152,070, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Here's a look at how confirmed cases and Covid-19 cases in the US compare to other countries:

Meanwhile, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation increased its forecast to 219,864 total deaths by November, in part because the nation continues to debate measures like wearing masks and social distancing.

"The thing we need to do is we need to pull out all the stops to get it down to baseline and to keep it there by doing the things that we've been talking about — that I've been talking about — consistently," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday during CNN's coronavirus town hall.

Regularly taking such precautions is especially important given that a backlog in getting test results is rendering some coronavirus testing practically useless.

9:09 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci says it's "crunch time" for vaccine development

From CNN's Christina Maxouris and Eric Levenson,

Public skepticism toward vaccines is something officials will need to overcome once a coronavirus vaccine is ready for the public, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Monday.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is working with Moderna on a potential vaccine, said there will need to be a campaign of community engagement and outreach.

"If we get a widespread uptake of vaccine, we can put an end to the pandemic and we can create a veil of immunity that would prevent the infection coming back," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"You have to do it by extending yourself to the community, not by a dictum from Washington."

The first Phase 3 clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the US, developed by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, began Monday. Fauci called it "crunch time" for vaccine development, and said he's "cautiously optimistic" about the progress.

"We're trying to figure out does it actually work," he said. It will "take several months to determine if in fact (the vaccine) does work," he said. "To go from not even knowing what the virus was in early January to a Phase 3 trial is really record time."

The Moderna vaccine is one of 25 in clinical trials around the world, according to the World Health Organization. Pfizer and BioNTech also announced Monday that they have begun a Phase 2/3 study of a coronavirus vaccine.

Watch Fauci explain the vaccine trial: