Fauci, Redfield testify on Covid-19 reopening as cases rise

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:21 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020
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12:09 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Fauci says newly identified swine flu is "something we need to keep our eye out on"

From CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the newly identified swine flu, called G4, is “something we need to keep an eye out on.” 

Speaking to the Senate HELP Committee hearing, Fauci said “the Chinese, over the last week or two have identified a virus — in the environment — it has not yet shown to be infecting humans, but it is exhibiting what we call reassortment capability.”

Fauci explained that when several different strains of a virus simultaneously infect the same host, such as a pig, they can exchange genetic information.  

“When they all mix up together, and they contain some of the elements that might make them susceptible to being transmitted to humans, you always have the possibility that you might have another swine flu type outbreak as we had in 2009,” Fauci said.

Fauci said G4 is still in the examination stage — “It’s not so-called, an immediate threat.”  

 “But it's something we need to keep our eye out on just the way we did in 2009 with the emergence of the swine flu,” he said. 

The G4 virus, which is genetically descended from the H1N1 swine flu that caused the 2009 pandemic, was described in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

Earlier today: The World Health Organization confirmed in an email to CNN on Tuesday that agency officials are carefully reading the new data that has emerged on the swine flu virus.

"Eurasian avian-like swine influenza virus are known to be circulating in the swine population in Asia and to be able to infect humans sporadically. Twice a year during the influenza vaccine composition meetings, all information on the viruses is reviewed and the need for new candidate vaccine viruses is discussed. We will carefully read the paper to understand what is new," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said in the email.

12:42 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

CDC heads says Arizona's daily death rate is increasing. Here's a look at the latest figures.

Dr. Robert Redfield, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country is seeing "significant increases" in the southeast and southwest regions. He noted that the number of jurisdictions and upward trajectory has "continued to increase."

"The evidence tells us that these cases are driven by many factors to include increased testing, community transmission and outbreaks in the settings such as nursing homes and occupational settings," Redfield said.

Redfield said hospitalizations are going up in 12 states, and as of this weekend, the daily death toll has increased in the state of Arizona. 

According to CNN reporting, the state’s average number of deaths per day has about doubled over the course of June – from just under 20 to just under 40. 

Here is a look at the progression of new confirmed deaths in the state:

12:05 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

FDA commissioner says he is "optimistic" about availability of coronavirus treatments by fall

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

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

The Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn says he is optimistic about having more than one coronavirus treatments available for adults and older Americans by the fall so there is more confidence in going back to school for not just students but also staff.

He detailed the progress on treatments:

Remdesivir has been authorized based on studies that show it is effective in reducing hospitalization days for Covid-19 patients.

About 20,000 patients have been administered with convalescent plasma as the FDA evaluated its safety and found it to be safe.

The safety data and antibody information that comes out of this plasma study will be passed on to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Dr. Hahn said.

“That antibody data will help us in terms of the development of monoclonal antibodies, he explained. “We're hopeful that those studies by the late summer, early fall, will provide us information about their effectiveness and safety.”
11:18 a.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Fauci "concerned" by rising cases, says states "need to follow" reopening guidelines

Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is "quite concerned" by the increase in cases in states such as Florida, Texas, California and Arizona, and offered his advice on what states can do to reverse these trends.

"We've got to make sure that when states try and open again, they need to follow the guidelines that have been very carefully laid out with regard to checkpoints. What we've seen in several states are different iterations of that, perhaps maybe in some going too quickly and skipping over some of the checkpoints," Fauci said.

Fauci noted that even in states where the leadership opened with the right recommendations, the country saw "clips and photographs of individuals" not wearing masks, not avoiding crowds and not following social distancing guidelines.

"I think we need to emphasize the responsibility that we have both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic that we all have to play a part in," Fauci said.

He added that when you look "at the visuals, what we saw were a lot of people who maybe felt that because they think that they are invulnerable and we know many young people are not, they are getting serious disease, that, therefore, they are getting infected has nothing to do with anyone else and in fact it does."

1:35 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Here is Fauci's advice to schools on reopening

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

Asked what he would tell a school superintendent regarding reopening schools, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it depends on the "dynamics of the outbreak" in the particularly location where the school is.

"One of the things we want to emphasize and have been emphasizing is to take a look at where you are in the area of the so-called opening America again. Are you at the gateway phase one, phase two, phase three?" Fauci asked. "The CDC has guidelines about the opening of schools at various stages of those checkpoints. The basic fundamental goal would be as soon as you possibly can to get the children back to school and to use the public health as a tool to help get children back to school."

Fauci said that if a school is in an area where there is a certain amount of "infection dynamics," there are some things that can be "creatively done" including modifying the school's schedule, alternating days, morning versus evening, allowing under certain circumstances, online virtual lessons. 

Fauci stressed the importance of getting children back in schools due the "unintended negative consequences" that occur when they are kept out of school.


2:06 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Critical Americans embrace the universal use of face coverings, CDC head says

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

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified that the country's daily cases are increasing after an "extended decline" and urged the population, especially young people, to follow CDC guidelines.

"We're not defenseless against this disease. We have powerful tools at our disposal: social distancing, wear a face cover in public and be diligent about frequent hand washing. It is critical that we take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings. Specifically I'm addressing the younger members of our society, the millennials and the generation Zs. I ask those that are listening to spread the word," Redfield told lawmakers.

Redfield said evidence shows that the increase in cases in some US states are driven by many factors including increased testing, community transmission and outbreaks in the settings such as nursing homes and occupational settings. 

Redfield said the CDC is closely monitoring increases in Covid-19 and have 48 teams with more than 140 staff currently deployed in 20 states and two territories. 

He added that the CDC is speaking with states, tribal, local and territorial health departments on a daily basis to develop strategies to stop the virus while reopening businesses and schools.

At least 16 US states have paused their reopening plans as new cases in at least 36 states are trending upward compared to the previous week.

11:08 a.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Fauci says "there is no guarantee" for a safe Covid-19 vaccine, but he's "cautiously optimistic"

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said there's "no guarantee" the US will develop a "safe and effective" Covid-19 vaccine — but experts are hopeful.

"It's extremely important to have safe and effective vaccines available for everyone in this country," Fauci said in his opening remarks before a Senate committee today.

But he noted that, "there is no guarantee — and anyone who has been involved in vaccinations will tell you — we'll have a safe and effective vaccine."

"But we are cautiously optimistic, looking at animal data and the preliminary data, that we will at least know the extent of the efficacy sometime in the winter and early part of next year," he continued.

He said experts are "aspirationally hopeful" there could be doses available to the public by next year.

11:25 a.m. ET, June 30, 2020

GOP senator reiterates his support for wearing masks as hearing begins


Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, along with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield and other government officials are testifying before a Senate hearing on the country's progress toward safely getting back to work and school.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and chair of the committee, said members in the committee room are sitting six feet apart. All witnesses are participating in-person while some senators are participating remotely.

Alexander said masks can be removed when speaking, but he used his remarks before his opening statement to urge lawmakers and President Trump to wear mask so that his followers will "follow his lead." He said he has suggested that Trump occasionally wear a mask, even though in most cases it is "not necessary for him to do so."

"Unfortunately this simple life-saving practice has become part of the political debate," Alexander said.

9:57 a.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Here's who is testifying soon before the Senate committee

The Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension is holding a hearing this morning formally titled, "COVID-19: Update on Progress Toward Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School."

The hearing comes as the country continues to battle the public health and economic consequences of the pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of more than 120,000 in the US.

The hearing will include both in-person and remote member attendees, according to the committee.

Witnesses include:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health
  • Dr. Robert Redfield, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Brett Giroir, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Stephen Hahn, Food and Drug Administration

Last week, the four witnesses testified in person before a House committee on the administration’s coronavirus response. Fauci told lawmakers "we're going to be doing more testing, not less," in response to President Trump's recent claim that he asked his administration to slow down testing during the pandemic.