Fauci testifies on coronavirus response

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 2:05 PM ET, Wed September 23, 2020
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11:12 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

"Long haulers" experience Covid-19 symptoms "weeks or months" after recovering from virus, Fauci says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Pool
Pool

Clinical observations show that Covid-19 affects certain individuals in a way that they can experience symptoms of the virus for weeks or months despite having virologically recovered, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

These individuals are called 'long haulers,'" he said.

"A number of individuals, who virologically have recovered from infection, in fact, have persistence — measured in weeks to months — of symptomatology that does not appear to be due to persistence of the virus," he told the Senate committee.

These individuals have fatigue, myalgia, fever and involvement of the neurological system as well as cognitive abnormalities such as the inability to concentrate, Dr. Fauci further reported in his remarks.

Additionally, "a disturbing number of individuals" who have completely recovered and apparently are asymptomatic, are found to have "inflammation of the heart," when they have sensitive imaging technology such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI,] he said.

"These are the kind of things that tell us we must be humble, that we do not completely understand the nature of this illness," Dr. Fauci added.

Watch:

10:54 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Fauci says he predicts we will know by "end of this year" whether vaccines in trials are safe and effective

Dr.Anthony Fauci arrives to testify during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, September 23.
Dr.Anthony Fauci arrives to testify during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, September 23. Alex Edelman/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in opening remarks at the Senate hearing this morning that there are three "platform candidate vaccines" that have entered into phase three trial.

 "Very soon there will be a fourth," he added.

Fauci said he predicts that we will know later in the year whether these vaccines are safe and effective.

"So as these trials go on, we predict that some time by the end of this year, let's say November or December, we will know whether or not these are safe and effective and as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, right now doses of this vaccine are being produced so that they'll be ready to be distributed."

"As I mentioned to this committee, we feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that," Fauci said.

Some background: Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate began phase 3 trials in the United States Wednesday. Trials for the single-dose vaccine, which uses a human adenovirus, will include up to 60,000 adult participants at nearly 215 sites in the US and internationally. 

Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca also have Covid-19 vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials in the United States, although AstraZeneca’s trial is currently paused.

Johnson & Johnson’s phase 3 trial is being conducted in collaboration with Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s coronavirus vaccine effort.

Watch:

10:15 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Ahead of this morning's hearing, Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine entered phase 3 trials

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

This September 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a single-dose Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the company.
This September 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a single-dose Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the company. Cheryl Gerber/Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson/AP

Ahead of today's Senate hearing with Dr. Anthony Fauci and other coronavirus task force members, Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate began phase 3 trials in the United States. Trials for the single-dose vaccine, which uses a human adenovirus, will include up to 60,000 adult participants at nearly 215 sites in the US and internationally. 

The vaccine candidate was developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Phase 3 trials will begin immediately, with the first participants receiving doses Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

Initial findings from the vaccine’s phase 1/2 trials in the US and Belgium suggest the vaccine provokes an immune response and is safe enough to move into large-scale trials. 

Phase 3 trials will examine the safety and effectiveness of a single dose against a placebo to prevent symptomatic Covid-19. The fact that the trial will examine the efficacy of a single dose of the vaccine, instead of two doses, should expedite results, said Stoffels.

Trials will run in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and the United States. Johnson & Johnson intends to run a separate phase 3 trial in collaboration with the UK government to examine the effectiveness of two doses.

If the vaccine is proven safe and effective, Johnson & Johnson said it expects the first doses to be available for emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration by early 2021. 

Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca also have Covid-19 vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials in the United States, although AstraZeneca’s trial is currently paused.

Johnson & Johnson’s phase 3 trial is being conducted in collaboration with Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s coronavirus vaccine effort.

Dr. Gupta discusses Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine:

9:52 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

SOON: Fauci and other health experts to be grilled on Trump's Covid-19 response

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is holding a hearing this morning at 10:00 a.m. ET on the federal response to the coronavirus crisis.

The hearing comes as the US reports more than 200,000 people died in the country from Covid-19 and continues to lead the world in total confirmed cases.

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
  • Stephen Hahn, US Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration

The health experts are expected to be grilled on vaccine development and schools reopening.

9:50 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Trump gave his coronavirus response an "A+"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport on September 22.
President Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport on September 22. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the mounting coronavirus death toll in the US, President Trump once again gave himself an A+ in his handling of the pandemic during an interview with "Fox and Friends" earlier this week.

“We’re rounding the corner. With or without a vaccine," Trump said Monday. "They hate when I say that but that’s the way it is… We’ve done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job a phenomenal job. Other that public relations but that’s because I have fake news. On public relations I give myself a D on the job itself we take an A+.”

Trump also insinuated that Pfizer looks to be the frontrunner in the race for a vaccine. When asked who was closest, Trump answered: “Well Pfizer’s doing really well… Johnson and Johnson has an incredible vaccine that’s really doing well. That’ll probably be a little bit later and Moderna’s doing very well also.” 

This weekend CNN obtained audio recordings from a conversation Bob Woodward had with Trump in July in which Trump gave himself an A on his handling of the pandemic.

9:35 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Fauci warns vaccines timeline projections are only that – projections

From CNN's Amanda Watts

CNN
CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci said “vaccines are being produced to be ready to administer – if we get a good signal that it works.” But projecting when that might be is just that: a projection.

Speaking to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta during a CITIZEN by CNN Conference on Tuesday, Fauci said, “People can have projections of what they think might happen.” But no one really knows when a vaccine will be ready, he said.

“The system is a double-blind, placebo controlled system – which means that there's an independent data and safety monitoring board that has nothing to do with politics or politicians, that has nothing to do essentially with the company, or the FDA, or the people who are doing the trial,” he explained. 

“But today, Sanjay, nobody knows what those data are because no one has looked at them. They are blinded,” he said. 

Despite this, Fauci remains “cautiously optimistic” – after reading preliminary studies – that we will have a positive effect when it comes to a vaccine. 

Where things stand in the vaccine race: There are at least 38 vaccines in human trials around the world – 9 Covid-19 vaccine candidates are in late-stage, large clinical trials as of Sept. 22, according to the World Health Organization.

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate began phase 3 trials in the US on Wednesday. Trials for the single-dose vaccine, which uses a human adenovirus, will include up to 60,000 adult participants at nearly 215 sites in the US and internationally. 

Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca also have Covid-19 vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials in the US, although AstraZeneca’s trial is currently paused.

Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate Appropriations committee hearing that it would likely be the second or third quarter of next year – late spring or summer – before widespread vaccination could be underway in the US.

President Trump meanwhile claimed Friday there will be enough coronavirus vaccines for every American by April.

"As soon as a vaccine is approved the administration will deliver it to the American people immediately," Trump said at a White House news briefing on Friday. "Distribution will begin with 24 hours after notice."

9:29 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

The US reached 200,000 Covid-19 deaths yesterday

From CNN's Amanda Watts

The United States surpassed 200,000 deaths from coronavirus yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Here's a look at the timeline:

  • The first death from coronavirus in the US was reported on February 29. 
  • 54 days later, on April 23, the US reported 50,000 deaths from Covid-19.
  • Just 29 days later, on May 23, the nation crossed 100,000 deaths.
  • It took 65 days to reach 150,000 deaths on July 28.
  • It took 55 days to reach 200,000 deaths.

Read more about the grim milestone:

9:30 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

People need to understand Covid-19 is an "evolving situation," Fauci says

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Chandelis Duster

On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly reverted to its previous guidance about how coronavirus is transmitted, removing language about airborne transmission it had posted days earlier.

The move added to confusion about the virus spurred by mixed messaging from the White House on preventative measures and mask wearing. Many doctors and researchers have also cautioned for months that the virus can be transmitted through small airborne viral particles.

Asked where people should get trusted information about the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday, "they need to get it by following the scientific data and the scientific evidence."

"The fact is you've got to go with the scientific data," he said. "One of the things that the public needs to understand is that this is an evolving situation and the people who say, 'Well, how can I trust anybody because things change,' what changes is the fact that we are in an evolving outbreak. And the things that we did not know a few months ago allowed us to at the time use the scientific information to make recommendations that were appropriate at the time and because the data were telling us at the same time. As we learned more, things changed. It's appropriate to make changes in recommendations based on the additional knowledge that you know."

Fauci said “a classic example” of this is back in the spring, “We were not aware that 40% to 45% of people were asymptomatic, nor were we aware that a substantial proportion of people who get infected get infected from people who are without symptoms. That makes it overwhelmingly important for everyone to wear a mask.”

 “So when people say, ‘Well, why did you change your stance? And why are you emphasizing masks so much now when back then you didn't? And in fact, you even said you shouldn't because there was a shortage of masks?’ Well, the data now are very, very clear,” he said.

“We need to put that nonsense behind us about, ‘Well, they keep changing their minds,’ ” he said.

“Masks work. Physical distancing works. Avoiding crowds work,” Fauci said. 

9:58 a.m. ET, September 23, 2020

Fauci concerned about US not having control of the virus ahead of the winter season

From CNN's Chandelis Duster

CNN
CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said the US reaching 200,000 coronavirus deaths is "very sobering, and in some respects, stunning," while adding that Americans should trust medical experts despite at times conflicting signals from the highest levels of government.

"The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering, and in some respects, stunning," the nation's top infectious doctor told CNN's Sanjay Gupta during the Citizen by CNN conference shortly before the US reached the grim milestone late Tuesday morning.

"We do have within our capability —even before we get a vaccine, which we will get reasonably soon — we have the capability by doing things that we have been speaking about for so long, Sanjay, that could prevent the transmission, and by preventing transmission, ultimately preventing the morbidity and mortality that we see." He mentioned measures such as frequent hand washing and mask wearing.

Fauci said he is concerned about the country not having control of the virus' spread ahead of the winter season that could exacerbate it.

"And depending upon your own social situation, indoors for you or another person may mean poor ventilation, poor air flow. And difficulty getting the kind of removal of anything that would lead to spread," adding that he'd like to see the US go into the fall and winter months "at such a low level that when you have the inevitable cases, you can handle them."

"I don't want to really make this kind of a dark thing that 'oh, my goodness, it's inevitable that we are going to get into serious trouble,'" he continued. "We can't throw our hands up and say, 'It's hopeless, it's going to happen anyway.' That is unacceptable to take that approach. On the other hand, it's not acceptable to not realize that we are entering into a risk period and we've got to act accordingly as we enter into that risk period."

President Trump had praised his administration's response to the pandemic on Monday, telling "Fox & Friends" that "we've done a phenomenal job" and giving himself an "A+" on how he has handled the virus.

Fauci, answering a question from a viewer on what grade he would give Trump's pandemic response, said, "Take a look at the numbers and make up your own mind."

"I mean, you know, we don't need a sound bite from me. Take a look at the numbers," he said.

Watch: