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

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4:21 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

The hearing has ended. Here are some key moments.

From CNN's Christina Maxouris and Jason Hanna

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

For about three hours, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts testified before a Senate committee on President Trump's coronavirus response and the country's progress in reopening.

Their testimony came as at least 36 US states are seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases compared to the previous week.

In case you missed it, here's what you need to know:

  • "Significant increases" in cases: Fauci said he is "very concerned" with the increase in cases in some parts of the country and said he wouldn’t be surprised if the US begins to see daily new cases coming in at 100,000 a day given current trends. He said he couldn't make an accurate prediction of the number of cases and deaths the country will see before the pandemic is over, but noted that “it’s going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that." Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the country is seeing "significant increases" in the southeast and southwest regions. 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. 
  • Officials urged the public to wear masks: Fauci and Redfield urged the public to wear face coverings as states continue to struggle to contain the virus. Fauci said "we recommend masks for everyone" and "masks are extremely important." Redfield singled out younger Americans in particular to deliver a message that they are not exempt from the necessity of wearing a mask.
  • On reopening schools: Fauci said pool testing for coronavirus could be a helpful tool as schools look to reopen in the fall. He also said it is very important that children get back to school, but schools must open while following CDC guidelines. 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 and allowing under certain circumstances, online virtual lessons. 
  • Vaccine in the works: Fauci said there's "no guarantee" the US will develop a "safe and effective" Covid-19 vaccine — but experts are "aspirationally hopeful" there could be doses available to the public by next year.

2:09 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Coronavirus is a teaching moment for the US, health officials say

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Several members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force told a Senate committee on Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted flaws across health systems and responses in the United States and they want to use it as a teaching moment. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said going forward he wants to see the nation respond as a whole. Fauci said we cannot have a situation “where when you have a challenge, such as we have right now, we have very disparate responses. We've got to do it in a coordinated way, because we are all in this together.” 

Fauci also said it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that “what was thought to be unimaginable turned out to be the reality.” 

“Outbreaks happen. And you have to deal with him in a very aggressive, proactive way,” he added. 

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “our nation needs to be overprepared, not underprepared.” 

“We've really been hit with this simple virus,” he said. “We have a moment in time where I think people are attuned, and I would say now's the time to make the necessary investment in our public health, at the local, territorial, tribal state and federal level, so that this nation finally has the public health system not only that it needs, but that it deserves.”  

Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at US Department of Health and Human Services, said he wants to see more resilience in the health care system. “Just about every other thing in the health care system was sacrificed for our Covid response, so it's not just the pandemic response, but it's everything else we need to do.”

Giroir added, the US needs to work on “health disparities that have been here for decades,” saying it is “critical to raise our general health and prepare us for whatever is going to hit us.” 

Closing the hearing, Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said the supply chain needs critical change. 

“We absolutely need redundancy in the supply chain, we need redundancy manufacturing and we need to emphasize the importance of domestic manufacturing,” he said.

 

3:21 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

CDC head calls achieving herd immunity a "multi-year strategy"

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images
Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

It could take years to achieve herd immunity to coronavirus in the US, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told senators on Tuesday.

“I think it's important to realize even now, we're probably looking at somewhere between 5% and 8% of the American public has experienced this virus. So for me, herd immunity as a basic strategy — you're talking about a multi-year strategy,” Redfield said. 

Even then, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, herd immunity isn’t going to be “any kind of showstopper.” 

“In other words, if you wind up getting herd immunity to 75% or 80%, what we need to learn — and only time will teach us this — is how long this immunity lasts. Is it a year, two, three, four, or is it even less? Is it months? We don't know,” Fauci said.

When researchers find out, that will tell doctors how often a booster vaccination would be needed – if a vaccine is ever developed.

 

1:48 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Top US health officials support free masks for Americans

From CNN’s Alison Main

Members of the White House coronavirus task force testified before a Senate committee Tuesday that they would support the distribution of free masks to every American household.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told Sen. Bernie Sanders "of course" he supports the idea, because he thinks masks are "extremely important."

"Anything that furthers the use of mask, whether it's giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of," Fauci said.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he thinks ensuring an environment where masks are "universal" is "fundamentally the most important thing we can do." 

Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir agreed with Sanders that increased government production of high quality masks to distribute to Americans is important. He said the US government has already contracted the production of some face coverings.

1:27 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Fauci tells Americans: Stop going to bars

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Al Drago/Pool/AP
Al Drago/Pool/AP

Americans have to stop going congregating in bars, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. But he said people can and should still have fun.

“Bars: really not good, really not good. Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really have got to stop that,” Fauci told senators during a hearing.

But Fauci said that doesn’t mean we have to restrict everything, “because 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.”

1:13 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

CDC director says US needs "aggressive modernization" of contact tracing procedures

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Alison Main

Al Drago/Pool/AP
Al Drago/Pool/AP

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expressed the need for an "aggressive modernization" of contact tracing procedures in the United States, telling a Senate committee on Tuesday that "substantial investment" must take place.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, told Redfield in her state, contact tracing is done using a paper copy and faxing a spreadsheet to epidemiology labs.  

"There are a number of counties that are still doing this pen and pencil," Redfield said, adding, "we need to have a comprehensive integrated public health data system that's not only able to do something that's in real time, but actually can be predictive."

Redfield testified that contact tracing "really doesn't have any value" unless it is done in real time.

1:29 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Fauci says we're not sure how long immunity from coronavirus will last

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

Asked about how possible herd immunity could help the US move past the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci noted there's still "a lot we don’t know" about immunity — including how long it lasts.

"What we don’t know is what the durability is," he said at an ongoing Senate hearing. “So if you wind up getting herd immunity to 75, 80%, what we need to learn, and only time will teach us this, is how long does immunity last? Is it a year? Two, three, four? Or is it less?”

Fauci said the immunity durability — or how long it protects a person — could affect how often a possible coronavirus vaccine needs updating.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also noted that as of now, only about 5% to 8% of the American public has “experienced this virus," underscoring the need for a vaccine.

12:54 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Pool testing at schools may be helpful for reopening, Fauci says

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Pool testing for coronavirus could be a helpful tool as schools look to reopen in the fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. This type of testing takes several tests and puts them together into one test.

Fauci said this helps “get a feel for the penetrance of infection in a community, rather than testing multiple each individual person, which takes resources and time.”   

“If that test is negative, then you know those 10 people are all negative. So instead of utilizing 10 tests, you’ve utilize one test,” he explained. “And if you then find one is positive, then you go backtrack and figure out who that person is."

“If you do the mathematical calculation, 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 added.

“It can be used in any of a number of circumstances, at the community level, or even in schools if you wanted to do that.”

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1:56 p.m. ET, June 30, 2020

Infections and death toll will be "very disturbing" if current trends persist, Fauci says

Asked how many Covid-19 deaths and infections the US could expect before the pandemic is over, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he couldn't make an "accurate prediction" but it is going to be "very disturbing."

"I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country even though in other parts of the country they are doing well, they are vulnerable," Fauci said. "We can't just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk."

Fauci said that the country is seeing more than 40,000 new cases a day, and that he would "not be surprised" if the case count goes up to 100,000 a day if the current trend in cases "does not turn around."

Fauci stressed that he could not make an estimation on deaths as those would need to be modeled.

"I think it is important to tell and you the American public that I'm very concerned because it could get very bad," Fauci said.

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