CNN  — 

Dr. Anthony Fauci and three other top Trump administration officials testified before Congress on Tuesday, describing the administration’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak and what reopening the country might look like in the coming months.

Senators from both sides of the aisle sharply probed the administration’s actions for testing and preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and Fauci, who was the primary recipient of the committee’s questions, defended the guidance he’d given President Donald Trump and the country.

These are some of the top moments from Tuesday’s hearing:

Fauci has a warning for state and municipal governments about reopening

Fauci used much of his time before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to urge states not to reopen until they know they have the capabilities to handle an inevitable uptick in cases once they relax stay-at-home orders.

“My concern that if some areas – cities, states or what have you – jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said.

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery,” Fauci later added.

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Sen. Rand Paul tells Dr. Fauci he isn't the 'end all'
04:02 - Source: CNN

Fauci defends his role after Rand Paul challenges his assessment

In perhaps the most contentious part of the hearing, Fauci defended his guidance to the task force after Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, challenged him, saying he doesn’t think Fauci is the “end-all,” and “the one person that gets to make the decision” regarding reopening the US economy.

Fauci responded that he “never made (himself) out to be the end-all and only voice in this” and noted that “there are a number” of other officials who weigh on the administration’s strategy.

“I’m a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I give advice, according to the best scientific evidence,” he said. “I don’t give advice about economic things.”

Vaccine before school year starts in the fall a ‘bridge too far,’ Fauci predicts

Near the start of the hearing, Fauci also weighed in on plans for the schools and universities trying to plan how to safely bring students back to campuses, saying the notion of a vaccine or treatment at that point was a “bridge too far.”

“The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” he said.

Fauci says the death toll is likely higher

Fauci said he agreed with the assessment that some health experts have made that the US death toll for Covid-19 is “almost certainly” higher than is currently reported.

“Given the situation, particularly in New York City – when they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system – that there may have been people who died at home who did have some Covid who are not counted as Covid because they never really got to the hospital,” Fauci said.

He said he’s not sure “exactly what percent higher” the real death toll could be. “But almost certainly it’s higher,” he added. At the time of the hearing, the US death toll was just over 81,000.

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Romney rebukes Trump official for what he said at briefing
00:59 - Source: CNN

Romney rebukes administration’s testing numbers

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah used his time during the hearing to call out the Trump administration’s lack of Covid-19 testing, saying, “I find our testing record nothing to celebrate whatsoever.”

Romney pointed to comments made on Monday by Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, in which he claimed that the US per capita rate of testing is now superior even to South Korea, which has been held up as a model. Giroir was among those testifying besides Fauci.

Romney then told Giroir that South Korea’s number of tests is decreasing while they’re increasing in the US because it was quicker to test its citizens from the outset of the outbreak.

“I understand that politicians are going to frame data in a way that’s most positive politically,” said Romney. “Of course, I don’t expect that from admirals.”

“Yesterday you celebrated that we had done more tests and more tests per capita even than South Korea,” he added. “But you ignored the fact that they accomplished theirs at the beginning of the outbreak, while we treaded water during February and March.”

Fauci says his relationship to Trump is not confrontational …

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia asked Fauci about his relationship to Trump, one that has been under scrutiny since the White House task force has regularly appeared with the President.

“There is certainly not a confrontational relationship between me and the President,” Fauci said. “As I’ve mentioned many times, I give advice and opinion based (on) evidence-based scientific information. He hears that. He respects it. He gets opinions from a variety of other people. But in no way, in my experience over the last several months, has there been any confrontational relationship between us.”

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who were also testifying at the hearing, also said they did not have confrontational relationships with Trump.

… and he’s doing just fine

Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, started her five minutes of questions with a simple one for Fauci. “How are you doing and how are you holding up?” she asked him.

“This is, this is such an important problem,” Fauci said. “It transcends all of us individually, and we have to be working as a team. And I enjoy very much working with your senators and the governors, because it’s at the local level that we’re going to make it work. So I am fine. I appreciate your concern.”