Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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5:15 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

Fauci is "not overly confident right now" about testing capacity in the US

From CNN's Caroline Kelly

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a coronavirus briefing at the White House on April 17.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a coronavirus briefing at the White House on April 17. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that he was doubtful of the country's current testing capability, which is a key resource as several states and cities look to partially reopen their economies during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

During a Time 100 Talks interview, Fauci — the nation's top infectious disease expert and a White House coronavirus task force member — was asked how confident he was that the country currently has sufficient capability to handle the potential increased coronavirus testing needs in order to inform leaders looking to reopen hard-hit areas.

"We absolutely need to significantly ramp up, not only the number of tests but the capacity to actually perform them," Fauci said.

That way, he continued, "you don't have a situation where you have a test, but it can't be done because there's not a swab, or not an extraction media or not the right vial -- all of those things got to be in place."

"I am not overly confident right now at all, that we have what it takes to do that," Fauci added.

Some context: Fauci's comments run counter to President Donald Trump's regular assurances that American coronavirus testing is on solid footing, including on Wednesday when he told reporters "we're doing more testing, I think, than probably any of the governors want."

Trump and his political allies have touted the total number of coronavirus tests conducted in the US but the country still lags behind Italy in per capita tests performed.

5:13 a.m. ET, April 24, 2020

House Democrat says she plans to probe the dismissal of director of key vaccine agency

From CNN's Manu Raju

Rep. Anna Eshoo, the chairwoman of the House’s Health subcommittee, is seen on Capitol Hill on February 26.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, the chairwoman of the House’s Health subcommittee, is seen on Capitol Hill on February 26.  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Anna Eshoo, the chairwoman of the House’s Health subcommittee, told CNN she plans to call in Dr. Rick Bright to testify before her panel as she reviews the circumstances of his removal from a key position after he raised concerns about the safety of a drug that President Trump touted as a potential vaccine to coronavirus.

“I think the American people deserve to hear Dr Bright’s story,” Eshoo told CNN. “He really has worked for the American people — they are the ones who have paid his salary. A thoroughbred professional — and to set him aside in one of the most key positions to develop vaccines in the midst of the pandemic? The story doesn’t make sense to me. So I think it deserves examination.”

Eshoo said she also wants to call Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Bob Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, to testify before her panel.

“I don’t know where this began, why, who where, when, why,” said Eshoo, whose subcommittee falls under the Energy and Commerce full committee. “But I think it deserves to be examined and the story told.”

Eshoo said she wants to have hearings as soon as it’s “feasible” and said she’s willing to return to Washington to probe the matter.

“I’m willing to come here, I think others will as well,” she said Thursday.

Eshoo appears to have backing from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Asked by CNN about the Bright situation, Pelosi directed an inquiry to Eshoo.

Some context: Bright had led BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, since 2016 until Tuesday, when he was reassigned to a narrower position.

"I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit," Bright said in a lengthy statement issued Wednesday. "I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way."