With more COVID-19 cases being realized in the US, the White House Coronavirus Task Force testified before the Senate today.
Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifying before a Senate committee today offered some very grim news in terms of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) daily incidence numbers.
“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day,” Fauci testified. “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”
Fauci, along with other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force including Robert Redfield, MD, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health with the US Department of Health and Services, and FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, all testified before the Senate committee for over 3 hours.
Here are some of the highlights from the group’s testimony:
Reversing the Incidence Trend
When Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) asked Fauci what the federal government and the more than 30 states that have seen a rise in COVID-19 incidence rates could do to reverse the trend, Fauci stressed the existing guidelines and suggested that the lack of uniformity has created part of the resurgence.
“What we have seen in several states are different iterations of that [guidelines],” Fauci testified. “Perhaps in some, they’re going too quickly and skipping over some of the checkpoints, but even in states which the leadership in the form of the governors and mayors did it right, with the right recommendations, what we saw visually in clips and in photographs of individuals in the community doing an all-or-none phenomena, which is dangerous.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) asked a hypothetical question about what Dr. Fauci’s advice would be to a school superintendent in terms of what he or she should be thinking about as children go back to school.
“It really will depend on the dynamics of the outbreak and the particular location of where the school is,” Fauci stated. He emphasized the CDC’s existing guidelines about opening schools in various stages.
“The basic fundamental goal as you try to get the children back to school and to use the public health efforts as a tool to help get children back to school,” Fauci continued. “If we adhere to many of the guidelines we have heard about physical distancing, the use of masks, and things like that [we] will help to keep the level of infection in the community down, which will then make it easier to get children back to school.”
Later on, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) asked Fauci about further clarification about schools opening back up again. “I feel very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school,” Fauci said.
Sen. Murray asked about a vaccine plan, and when it would be seen. “We’re developing the plan as we speak,” Redfield stated. “And, again, to keep building on the efforts we have to build vaccine confidence in this country is really critical. There will be a plan for the distribution of this vaccine.”
When Murray pressed Redfield about a timeline for the vaccine plan, he said it would be in “the near weeks ahead.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), asked Hahn about what the FDA could do to earn the public’s trust that the vaccines would be safe and effective.
“We have an obligation to use all of our scientific knowledge, regulatory framework to ensure that any vaccine that comes before us whether for authorization or approval meets our stringent standards for safety and effectiveness,” Hahn testified.
One area that has gained traction is the idea of pool testing. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked Fauci about this concept and expanding it.
“You can save a lot of time, a lot of resources and use the testing for a variety of other things that you would need,” Fauci explained. “So it’s a really good tool. It can be used in any number of circumstances at the community level or even in schools if you want to do that. It can clearly be extrapolated to that.”
Masks For All
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked the taskforce about the possibility of giving all Americans high-quality masks. “Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it’s giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of,” Fauci testified.
“Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really have got to stop that,” Fauci stated. However, Fauci cautioned not to restrict everything. “People are not going to tolerate that.”
“We should not look at the public health endeavors as being an obstruction to opening up. We should look at it as a vehicle to opening up,” he said. “We've got to be able to get people to get out and enjoy themselves within the safe guidelines that we have,” Fauci said. “Make public health work for you as opposed to against you.”