Fauci, Redfield testify on Trump's coronavirus response

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

Updated 5:33 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020
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4:00 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Coronavirus has "brought this nation to its knees," CDC director says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty

Covid-19 has “brought this nation to its knees,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday in a House hearing.

“We've all done the best that we can do to tackle this virus,” Redfield said during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. 

“We're going to probably spend close to $7 trillion because of one little virus,” he said. 

Redfield said the virus has highlighted decades of underinvesting in the “core capabilities of public health data.” Now is the time to fix the broken system, he added. 

“This needs to be a partnership. It’s not all the burden of the federal government to invest in public health at the local level,” Redfield said. In reality, “if your funding of CDC was to go away tomorrow, public health infrastructure across this nation would just crash.”  

“We’re right now the backbone of it,” he added.

Watch the moment:

3:32 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci says he has not "directly recommended" Trump wear a mask

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Gett
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Gett

Asked by Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democrat from New York, if he has directly advised President Trump to wear a mask in public, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he hasn't "directly recommended" that Trump wear a mask.

Fauci said he could not comment on the "multiple factors" that go into the President's refusal to do so, noting that he himself chooses to wear a mask to protect others and set an example.

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, explained the benefits of face masks and face coverings, saying wearing them is "definitely helpful in preventing acquisition as well as transmission" of the virus.

Tonko noted that Trump has repeatedly appeared in speeches and public spaces without wearing a mask.

Watch:

3:03 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci says NIH continues to talk to WHO daily despite Trump's decision to end US relationship with group

From CNN's Ali Main Jason Hoffman and Maegan Vazquez

Dr. Anthony Fauci told the House Energy and Commerce committee Tuesday that he was not consulted about President Trump's decision to withhold US funding from the World Health Organization.

However, Fauci emphasized American public health officials' continued to work with the global organization.

Fauci said the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases frequently collaborates with WHO and that he and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield are on weekly calls supervised by the WHO to speak with medical leaders around the world. 

The nation's top infectious disease expert said he was concerned about the President's decision, but he said cooperation with the global group had not been affected by the halt in funding, adding later that those at the operational level of the US pandemic response continue to interact with the WHO in a "very meaningful way" on a "day to day basis," "despite any policy issues that come from higher up in the White House."

Redfield also testified that he was not consulted about the decision to halt WHO funding, but that the CDC continues to work with the group. He said that while there are limitations on the CDC's ability to provide direct funding to the WHO, the agency can still help finance the organization through "different mechanisms."

Some background: Trump announced last month that the United States will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization, a move he had threatened throughout the coronavirus pandemic and one that earned quick criticism from both sides of the aisle.

"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving, urgent global public health needs," Trump said.

The President said that the "world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency."

3:00 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted importance of telemedicine, top doctors say 

From CNN's Amanda Watts

 Dr. Anthony Fauci and Adm. Brett P. Giroir.
 Dr. Anthony Fauci and Adm. Brett P. Giroir. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

Top doctors told the House Energy and Commerce Committee today that telemedicine has been instrumental during the Covid-19 pandemic – and they hope it is here to stay.

“Telemedicine is a very important component… as we look forward in the future, I think you're going to see a lot more of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House hearing today.

Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at US Department of Health and Human Services, said with a huge increase of virtual visits, the US has “learned tremendous lessons about the utility of telemedicine.” 

“Just to understand the uptake — the week of Jan. 15 there are only 500 telehealth visits by Medicare, the week of April 15, there was 150,000 of them,” Giroir said at the same hearing. 

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it is very important to get the health system back up and running as soon as possible. 

“The introduction of telemedicine is a critical component, something that needs to stay as part of the innovation, as we work more and more to move from a disease based system to a health system,” Redfield said. 

3:22 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Witnesses do not raise their hands when asked if they agree with Trump’s past assertion of Covid-19

Rep. Peter Welch speaks to the witnesses.
Rep. Peter Welch speaks to the witnesses. Pool

During his questioning of the witnesses, Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, asked the US health experts to raise their hands if they agreed with past statements made by President Trump about the Covid-19 pandemic.

When asked if they agreed with Trump's comments from February that the virus would disappear "like a miracle," all four witnesses did not raise their hands.

When asked if they agreed with Trump's past assertions that the virus was comparable to the "common flu," Dr. Anthony Fauci, responded, "It is not the common flu."

Aside from Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Brett Giroir, from US Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Stephen Hahn, from the Food and Drug Administration are testifying today before the House on the Trump administration's response on the coronavirus pandemic.

What Trump has said: At the coronavirus briefing on Feb. 26, Trump said: "This is a flu. This is like a flu"; "Now, you treat this like a flu"; "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."

On Feb. 27, Trump told attendees at an African American History Month reception in the White House Cabinet Room that "It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear."

The President added that "from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. Could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows."

2:03 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci believes everyone in White House doing "everything they possibly can" on Covid-19

From CNN's Ali Main 

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked by Rep. David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia, whether he believes President Trump is judged fairly for his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci initially objected to the premise of the question, calling it "unfair," because he felt that McKinley was asking him to pass judgement on the press's treatment of the President.

In the question, McKinley said the media and the left "simply can't help, but criticize" Trump, despite hopeful predictions for vaccine and treatment development.

McKinley asked the question again, saying that the nation's top infectious disease expert has previously publicly contradicted the President.

Fauci said, without directly referencing President Trump, he believes everyone in the White House is doing everything they can to respond to the pandemic.

"I work in the White House, and I believe that everyone there is doing everything they possibly can to do what they need to do," Fauci testified.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director told the committee earlier in the hearing that the administration will be doing "more testing, not less," in response to President Trump's recent claim that he asked to slow down testing during the pandemic.

2:13 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

2 key things Americans can do to curb Covid-19 spread, according to Fauci

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Christina Maxouris

Sarah Silbiger/Pool/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that Americans should avoid going into crowds — but if they must, wear a mask.

Simply put, Fauci said, “Plan A: Don't go in a crowd. Plan B: If you do, make sure you wear a mask.”

America’s top infectious disease expert said that with coronavirus still actively spreading across the country, “You should not congregate in crowds. You should keep distance.”

For those who do go against public health guidance of avoiding crowds, Fauci urged, “Please wear a mask. And as you wear a mask, and you're in a situation where you're getting animated in a demonstration or in a rally or wherever you are, avoid — as best as possible — the urge to pull your mask down and shout.”

Addressing the younger generation earlier in the hearing, Fauci said, “If you get infected and spread the infection  — even though you do not get sick — you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak. And what you might be propagating, inadvertently  — perhaps innocently  — is infecting someone who then infects someone, who then is someone who's vulnerable.”

Some background: Fauci's comments come as officials in states across the South are warning that more young people are testing positive for coronavirus.

The shifts in demographics have been recorded in parts of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and other states — many of which were some of the first to reopen.

And while some officials have pointed to more widespread testing being done, others say the new cases stem from Americans failing to social distance.

Young people are more likely to have milder outcomes from coronavirus, but they can still infect others who are more at risk.

"With younger age of recent infections in at least some places such as Florida, expect a lower death rate in this wave ... until the 20-40 year olds who are infected today go on to infect others," Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Twitter.

2:42 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci has no regrets about not telling Americans to wear masks sooner

From CNN's Amanda Watts

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, does not regret telling Americans they should have been wearing masks sooner.

Speaking Tuesday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fauci explained how the situation was different a few months ago.

“I don't regret that because let me explain to you what happened. At that time, there was a paucity of equipment that our health care providers needed — who put themselves daily in harm's way of taking care of people who are ill. We did not want to divert masks and PPE away from them, to be used by the people,” he said.

“Now that we have enough, we recommend … ” Fauci began answering before he was cut off for the next question.

Watch:

1:20 p.m. ET, June 23, 2020

Fauci says he's "never seen" a virus with range of symptoms like Covid-19

From CNN's Amanda Watts

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers that in his entire career, he’s never seen a single virus that has such wide array of symptoms, like coronavirus does – and that confuses people. 

“I've been dealing with viral outbreaks for the last 40 years. I've never seen a single virus  — that is one pathogen  — have a range from 20% to 40% of the people have no symptoms," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said during his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This is just one of the “perplexing things about Covid-19," he noted.

"Some get mild symptoms, to some get symptoms enough to put them at home for a few days. Some are in bed for weeks and have symptoms even after they recover. Others go to the hospital. Some require oxygen. Some require intensive care. Some get intubated. And some die,” Fauci said.

Because of this, the health expert said the situation is “very confusing to people because some people think, ‘It’s trivial. It doesn't bother me. Who cares?’"

Fauci said that confusion has triggered Americans to have a “lack of appreciation” for responsibility.

Addressing the younger generation, Fauci said, “If you get infected and spread the infection  — even though you do not get sick — you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak. And what you might be propagating, inadvertently  — perhaps innocently  — is infecting someone who then infects someone, who then is someone who's vulnerable.”