Fauci, Redfield testify on Trump's coronavirus response

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5:33 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Top US health experts testified on Trump's coronavirus response today. Here's what happened.

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AP
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts testified today before a House committee on the Trump administration’s coronavirus response.

In case you missed it, here's what you need to know about the hearing:

  • A vaccine in 2020 is still possible: Fauci touted progress on a possible Covid-19 vaccine, saying one could be ready by the end of this year or at the beginning of 2021.
  • Testing is increasing — not slowing down: Both Fauci and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were asked about President Trump's assertion that he told staff to slow down testing for the disease. They said tests are increasing, not decreasing.
  • US likely to spend close to $7 trillion: Redfield said Covid-19 has “brought this nation to its knees." The US, he said, will "probably spend close to $7 trillion" because of coronavirus.
  • American health officials still working with WHO: Fauci said he was not consulted about Trump's decision to withhold US funding from the World Health Organization. However, Fauci emphasized American public health officials continued to work with the global organization.
  • Get your flu shot: Redfield urged Americans to be vaccinated for the flu this year, explaining that "next season's influenza illness will occur simultaneously potentially with Covid-19," meaning there will be increased pressure on health care systems.
  • About those case increases: Fauci addressed case spikes in some areas of the country, describing the increases as "a disturbing surge of infections." He said overall, it "really is a mixed bag," with some states doing well while others are now a problem.
5:01 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

CDC director: More than 7,000 nursing homes in the US "have a Covid patient in them"

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said more than 7,000 nursing homes across the United States have a Covid-19 patient in them. 

“Over half of the nursing homes in this nation right now, over 7,000 nursing homes in this nation, have a Covid patient in them,” Redfield said as he testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Nursing homes have been hit hard in the pandemic.

���Recent data show that approximately 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States are residents or workers at nursing homes and other longterm care facilities,” Sens. Maggie Hassan, Elizabeth Warren, Aging Committee Ranking Member Bob Casey, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday.

Watch:

5:24 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

At universities, "masks should be done at all times, without exception," Fauci says

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Sarah Silbiger/Pool/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Pool/Getty Images

As universities across the country look at their reopening plans for the fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “masks should be done at all times, without exception.”

Speaking to the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday, Fauci said there is no “one size fits all” approach to school openings across the country – but masks are a must. 

“If you have very, very few cases like in a small college in a county, I think you can be really very liberal in the opening,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

In other areas, schools will have to get find “a very creative way” to keep students physically distanced. “You've got to protect the vulnerables. You've got to allow both faculty, as well as students who are in that category of underlying conditions, to be able to have the capability of either teaching or learning online,” Fauci said.

“The other thing is — people who work with the students, namely people who feed them, people who clean, they need to be also paid attention to,” Fauci said. 

Fauci likened colleges to cruise ships or nursing homes. “It's the staff who might bring in an infection, and then infect the individuals who are in a much larger group,” he said.

Additionally, Fauci said there needs to be a plan in place for when someone does become infected.  

Watch:

4:07 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci says he "flinched a little" when he heard virus program was called Operation Warp Speed 

From CNN Health’s Amanda Watts

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci said he “flinched a little” when he heard the name of the Trump administration's coronavirus vaccine project, “Operation Warp Speed.”  

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the name gave him pause because he worried it sounded "reckless."

“I think there was some good intentions about using the 'Warp Speed,' but I myself flinched a little, because I know that people might think it's reckless,” Fauci said.

“There are risks, but the risks are all financial risks, and that's what people need to understand. They're not compromising the safety at all,” Fauci added. “Nor is there compromise of scientific integrity.”    

Fauci said vaccine manufactures are taking the risk.  

 “If you lose, the only thing you lose is a lot of money,” he said. “Now, nobody likes to lose a lot of money, but we feel we'd rather lose a lot of money and gain four, five, six, seven months, than have a result and have to wait for five, six, seven months to get the vaccine.” 

Watch:

 

4:00 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Coronavirus has "brought this nation to its knees," CDC director says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty

Covid-19 has “brought this nation to its knees,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday in a House hearing.

“We've all done the best that we can do to tackle this virus,” Redfield said during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. 

“We're going to probably spend close to $7 trillion because of one little virus,” he said. 

Redfield said the virus has highlighted decades of underinvesting in the “core capabilities of public health data.” Now is the time to fix the broken system, he added. 

“This needs to be a partnership. It’s not all the burden of the federal government to invest in public health at the local level,” Redfield said. In reality, “if your funding of CDC was to go away tomorrow, public health infrastructure across this nation would just crash.”  

“We’re right now the backbone of it,” he added.

Watch the moment:

3:32 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci says he has not "directly recommended" Trump wear a mask

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Gett
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Gett

Asked by Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democrat from New York, if he has directly advised President Trump to wear a mask in public, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he hasn't "directly recommended" that Trump wear a mask.

Fauci said he could not comment on the "multiple factors" that go into the President's refusal to do so, noting that he himself chooses to wear a mask to protect others and set an example.

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, explained the benefits of face masks and face coverings, saying wearing them is "definitely helpful in preventing acquisition as well as transmission" of the virus.

Tonko noted that Trump has repeatedly appeared in speeches and public spaces without wearing a mask.

Watch:

3:03 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci says NIH continues to talk to WHO daily despite Trump's decision to end US relationship with group

From CNN's Ali Main Jason Hoffman and Maegan Vazquez

Dr. Anthony Fauci told the House Energy and Commerce committee Tuesday that he was not consulted about President Trump's decision to withhold US funding from the World Health Organization.

However, Fauci emphasized American public health officials' continued to work with the global organization.

Fauci said the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases frequently collaborates with WHO and that he and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield are on weekly calls supervised by the WHO to speak with medical leaders around the world. 

The nation's top infectious disease expert said he was concerned about the President's decision, but he said cooperation with the global group had not been affected by the halt in funding, adding later that those at the operational level of the US pandemic response continue to interact with the WHO in a "very meaningful way" on a "day to day basis," "despite any policy issues that come from higher up in the White House."

Redfield also testified that he was not consulted about the decision to halt WHO funding, but that the CDC continues to work with the group. He said that while there are limitations on the CDC's ability to provide direct funding to the WHO, the agency can still help finance the organization through "different mechanisms."

Some background: Trump announced last month that the United States will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization, a move he had threatened throughout the coronavirus pandemic and one that earned quick criticism from both sides of the aisle.

"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving, urgent global public health needs," Trump said.

The President said that the "world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency."

3:00 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted importance of telemedicine, top doctors say 

From CNN's Amanda Watts

 Dr. Anthony Fauci and Adm. Brett P. Giroir.
 Dr. Anthony Fauci and Adm. Brett P. Giroir. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

Top doctors told the House Energy and Commerce Committee today that telemedicine has been instrumental during the Covid-19 pandemic – and they hope it is here to stay.

“Telemedicine is a very important component… as we look forward in the future, I think you're going to see a lot more of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House hearing today.

Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at US Department of Health and Human Services, said with a huge increase of virtual visits, the US has “learned tremendous lessons about the utility of telemedicine.” 

“Just to understand the uptake — the week of Jan. 15 there are only 500 telehealth visits by Medicare, the week of April 15, there was 150,000 of them,” Giroir said at the same hearing. 

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it is very important to get the health system back up and running as soon as possible. 

“The introduction of telemedicine is a critical component, something that needs to stay as part of the innovation, as we work more and more to move from a disease based system to a health system,” Redfield said. 

3:22 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Witnesses do not raise their hands when asked if they agree with Trump’s past assertion of Covid-19

Rep. Peter Welch speaks to the witnesses.
Rep. Peter Welch speaks to the witnesses. Pool

During his questioning of the witnesses, Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, asked the US health experts to raise their hands if they agreed with past statements made by President Trump about the Covid-19 pandemic.

When asked if they agreed with Trump's comments from February that the virus would disappear "like a miracle," all four witnesses did not raise their hands.

When asked if they agreed with Trump's past assertions that the virus was comparable to the "common flu," Dr. Anthony Fauci, responded, "It is not the common flu."

Aside from Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Brett Giroir, from US Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Stephen Hahn, from the Food and Drug Administration are testifying today before the House on the Trump administration's response on the coronavirus pandemic.

What Trump has said: At the coronavirus briefing on Feb. 26, Trump said: "This is a flu. This is like a flu"; "Now, you treat this like a flu"; "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."

On Feb. 27, Trump told attendees at an African American History Month reception in the White House Cabinet Room that "It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear."

The President added that "from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. Could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows."