Fauci testifies on coronavirus response

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1:53 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

What you need to know about today's coronavirus hearing

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, and other members of the White House coronavirus task force testified today before a House subcommittee on the Trump administration's coronavirus response.

Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, addressed concerns about testing, the possibility of a Covid-19 vaccine and the reopening of schools.

In case you missed it, here's what happened at today's hearing:

  • Vaccine won't be made available immediately: Fauci said a coronavirus vaccine may not be available to all Americans immediately, but in phases. He reassured lawmakers that all safety precautions will be taken by the FDA before the vaccine is made available to the public, encouraging all Americans to take the vaccine.
  • Fauci "cautiously optimistic" of vaccine trial: The infectious disease expert said 30,000 individuals have started to enroll in the first Phase 3 clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States, which started Monday. Fauci said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Moderna and his agency will be successful. Fauci went on to say he doesn't think it’s a dream to say that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by the end of the year or early 2021.
  • Children should return to school if possible: Redfield reiterated his stance that schools should reopen this fall, adding that closing schools can result in "very significant public health consequences." Fauci echoed Redfield's comments saying that a "default position despite the fact that we have to have flexibility" would be to try "as best as we possibly can in the context of the safety of the children and the teachers" to reopen the schools.
  • Health experts are focused on four issues: Fauci said the National Institutes of Health's strategic plan is focused on addressing four key points related to Covid-19. They are: the improvement of fundamental knowledge of the virus, the development of diagnostics, the testing of therapeutics and development and testing of vaccines.
  • On Herman Cain's passing: Cain, the businessman and former Republican presidential candidate, died yesterday from coronavirus. Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters offered condolences to his family and said, “This virus is not Democrat or Republican." Cain, who was hospitalized earlier this month, was one of the Trump surrogates photographed at the President’s campaign rally on June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cain was seated closely among other attendees without a face covering.

SEE FAUCI'S OPENING STATEMENT:

2:42 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Quicker coronavirus test results not possible now for everyone, Giroir says

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

Quicker coronavirus test results are not possible for everyone right now, Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, told lawmakers Friday.

Giroir, who is the Trump official overseeing Covid-19 testing efforts, has spent the week defending US coronavirus test turnaround times but told the House Select Subcommittee on Coronavirus Crisis that, at the moment, it is not possible for laboratories to deliver all Covid-19 tests results within 48 to 72 hours.

"It is not a possible benchmark we can achieve today given the demand and the supply. It is absolutely a benchmark we can achieve moving forward," he said.

Giroir added the government is moving to point-of-care testing to address test result delays. Point-of-care testing delivers a result within minutes.

"We're investing in a number of technologies that will greatly expand point of care testing and I think that's the future,” he said.

 

12:57 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci explains why the one study showing benefit of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid was "flawed"

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

 

Kevin Dietsch/AFP/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said again on Friday that no randomized placebo-controlled trial has shown that hydroxychloroquine works as a Covid-19 treatment.

Asked during a House subcommittee hearing about a study by a team of researchers at the Henry Ford Health System that claimed to show that hydroxychloroquine saved lives, Fauci said that study was "flawed."

"The Henry Ford hospital study that was published was a non-controlled retrospective cohort study that was confounded by a number of issues, including the fact that many of the people who were receiving hydroxychloroquine were also receiving corticosteroids, which we know from another study gives a clear benefit in reducing deaths with advanced disease. So that study is a flawed study, and I think anyone who examines it carefully, is that it is not a randomized placebo-controlled trial," Fauci explained. 

When Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Missouri, replied that the Henry Ford study was peer-reviewed, Fauci countered by saying, "It doesn't matter. You can peer review something that's a bad study, but the fact is, it is not a randomized placebo-controlled trial." 

"The point that I think is important, because we all want to keep an open mind: Any and all of the randomized placebo-controlled trials – which is the gold standard of determining if something is effective – none of them had shown any efficacy for hydroxychloroquine," Fauci said.

Fauci added that when he sees a randomized placebo-controlled trial that shows efficacy for the treatment, "I would be the first one to admit it and to promote it."

"I just have to go with the data. I don't have any horse in the game one way or the other. I just look at the data," he said.

WATCH HERE:

12:18 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci on limiting protests: "I'm not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way"

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo

Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images
Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday it is not his position to determine what the government can forcefully do, after being asked if the government should limit protesting during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a lengthy and tense exchange, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked Fauci during a House subcommittee hearing if the government should limit the protests that have been going on for months now across cities in the US.

"I'm not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way," Fauci replied to Jordan.

The congressman doubled down, arguing that Fauci has given his opinion on a number of things, from baseball to dating, adding that the government moved to stop people from going to work and has limited church services to avoid the spread of the virus.  

After a back and forth, Fauci said, "I'm not gonna opine on limiting anything. I'm telling what it is the danger. And you can make your own conclusion about that. You should stay away from crowds, no matter where the crowds are."

WATCH THE HEATED EXCHANGE:

12:12 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Congresswoman on Herman Cain's death: "This virus is not Democrat or Republican"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters offered condolences to the family of Herman Cain, the businessman and former Republican presidential candidate who died from coronavirus.

“This virus is not Democrat or Republican,” Waters said.

Cain was hospitalized earlier this month. He was one of the Trump surrogates photographed at the President’s campaign rally on June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cain was seated closely among other attendees without a face covering.

SEE THE CONDOLENCES HERE:

12:25 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci asked about Trump's falsehood that US has more cases because of more testing

Chairman James Clyburn speaks during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 31.
Chairman James Clyburn speaks during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 31. Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images

House subcommittee Chair James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, addressed President Trump's tweet that seemed to reference a chart Clyburn showed earlier in the hearing about US cases largely outpacing European countries.

In his tweet, Trump claimed that the US is leading Europe in cases due to testing. The President has repeatedly argued that more testing is leading to more cases in the US. That is comprehensively inaccurate.

"Somebody please tell Congressman Clyburn, who doesn’t have a clue, that the chart he put up indicating more CASES for the U.S. than Europe, is because we do MUCH MORE testing than any other country in the World. If we had no testing, or bad testing, we would show very few CASES, " Trump tweeted in part.

Clyburn asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, if he agreed with Trump's statement. Clyburn pointed to Fauci's earlier comments from the hearing where the public health official said the difference in cases is due to multiple factors, including how states reopened.

"I stand by my previous statement that the increase in cases was due to a number of factors, one of which was that in the attempt to reopen, that in some situations, states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House had put out and others that even did abide by it, the people in the state actually were congregating in crowds and not wearing masks," Fauci said.

Fact's first: CNN’s fact check team has reported that Trump's officials and his Republican allies have acknowledged it's not true that a rising number of tests is the reason the number of cases has skyrocketed over the last month.

One telling piece of evidence that the spike is genuine: the percentage of people testing positive, a key measure of the true spread of the virus, has also spiked. As for his assertion regarding other countries — Countries like Germany have needed to do less testing over time because they were more successful at containing their outbreaks in the first place — by employing a strategy that involved aggressive early testing.

Watch the exchange between Clyburn and Fauci:

11:17 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

The hearing is in a short break

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 is in a short five-minute break.

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

For a little over two hours, the health experts have been pressed on Covid-19 vaccine development, school reopenings and the efficacy of President Trump's response to the virus.

2:06 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Possible coronavirus vaccines will be available to Americans in phases, Fauci says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

In his congressional testimony, Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers that a coronavirus vaccine may not be available to all Americans immediately, but in phases.

“I believe ultimately over a period of time in 2021, if we have — and I think we will have — a safe and effective vaccine, that Americans will be able to get it,” he said. “I don't think that we'll have everybody getting it immediately in the beginning. It probably will be phased in. And that's the reason why we have the committees to do the prioritization of who should get it first. But ultimately, within a reasonable period of time, the plans now allow for any American who needs a vaccine to get it within the year 2021.”

The nation’s top infectious disease expert reiterated that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by the end of the year to be distributed in 2021.

He also reassured lawmakers that all safety precautions will be taken by the FDA before the vaccine is made available to the public, encouraging all Americans to take the vaccine.

“I think the American public should be assured that in the process of determining the safety and efficacy, the proper steps have been taken to determine that, and when a vaccine becomes available it's important for their own health and for the health of the country to take that vaccine.”

SEE FAUCI'S ANSWER HERE:

11:00 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci hopes China and Russia are testing Covid-19 vaccines before distributing them

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo

Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images
Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers Friday that he hopes China and Russia are "actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone."

Speaking during a House subcommittee hearing, Fauci said "claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic at best."

Fauci explained the US is moving in a "rapid" but "prudent" way.

"We are going very quickly. I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines. I believe the program that is being sponsored by us right now, and being directed and implemented by us, is going at a very rapid speed — prudent, but rapid," Fauci said.

Some context: CNN learned earlier this week that Russia intends to be the first in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, in less than two weeks. And despite concerns about its safety, effectiveness and over whether the country has cut essential corners in development, interest in the vaccine has already been expressed by at least 20 countries and some US companies, Russian officials say.

Officials told CNN on Wednesday that they were working toward a date of August 10 or earlier for approval of the vaccine, which has been created by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. It will be approved for public use, with frontline healthcare workers getting it first, they said.

SEE MORE: