Fauci, in Senate testimony, warns of new coronavirus ‘outbreaks’ if states jump ‘checkpoints’ to reopen

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Fauci in Senate testimony warns of new coronavirus 'outbreaks' if states jump 'checkpoints' to reopen

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the White House coronavirus task force, warned in testimony Tuesday before the Senate Health Committee that reopening the economy before certain “checkpoints” set up in the Trump administration’s coronavirus recovery plan are met could bring “serious” consequences.

“As I have said many times publicly, what we have worked out is a guideline framework for how to open America again,” Fauci said, referencing a set of guidelines the White House has released for states and localities to begin opening their economies. In order to proceed to the first of three stages, states would need to see an uninterrupted decrease in coronavirus cases over a 14-day period.

“Depending on the dynamics of an outbreak in a particular region, state, city, or area, that would really determine the speed and the pace with which one does reenter or reopen,” Fauci said. “If some areas – cities states or what have you – jump over those barriers, checkpoints, and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively, and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”

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Fauci warned that prematurely lifting coronavirus restrictions closing schools and businesses and limiting travel would lead to “suffering and death” and “turn the clock back instead of going forward.”

When asked by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., what could happen if areas do ignore the “checkpoints,” Fauci said, “The consequences could be really serious.”

Further, when asked by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., if the virus was under control, Fauci said it is not.

“Right now it depends on what you mean by containment,” Fauci said, noting the virus is not completely under control. “So when you look at the dynamics of new cases, even though some are coming down, the curve looks flat with some coming down. So I think we’re going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak.”

He added that without proper measures, the U.S. could face a “resurgence” in cases. He said the U.S. should be in a much better place by the fall, but said if adequate measures are not taken, “there will be problems.”

“The time for magical thinking is over here,” Warren said of President Trump’s pushes to reopen the economy quickly and optimism that the virus “will go away.”

The hearing, which features Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), as well as three other top administration health officials, is the biggest congressional hearing since the coronavirus crisis began. It comes as states across the country are plotting their own courses for reopening their economies, with some already opening sectors and others maintaining strict lockdowns. President Trump himself has stressed the importance of getting America back to work, leading to criticism from some Democrats that this approach could be too risky.

Fauci did not rip on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic in his planned remarks, instead emphasizing efforts by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop vaccines and other medical means to fight the coronavirus.

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“Hopefully our research efforts, together with the other public health efforts, will get us quickly to an end to this terrible ordeal that we are all going through,” Fauci said.

“NIH is focused on developing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, and sensitive, specific, and rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests,” Fauci also said in written remarks submitted to the committee. “These efforts will improve our response to the current pandemic and bolster our preparedness for the next, inevitable emerging disease outbreak”

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On one point, Fauci said the government is focusing on several different vaccine candidates, using the hockey term “multiple shots on goal” to describe the increased chances that one would work. Additionally, he said if more than one is successful that would help increase the availability of the vaccines globally.

But, Fauci noted, “there’s no guarantee that a vaccine is going to be effective.”

Given the chance to attack Trump in an exchange with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Fauci declined to. Kaine pushed Fauci on whether South Korea’s success in fighting the coronavirus showed that the U.S. response to the pandemic was inadequate. Fauci noted that there is a “big difference” between the U.S. and South Korea.

Fauci appeared remotely due to concerns that he might have been exposed to the coronavirus. Multiple senators also appeared virtually for the hearing, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the committee, and Murray, the ranking member.

“After consulting with Dr. Fauci, and in an abundance of caution for our witnesses, senators, and the staff, all four Administration witnesses will appear by videoconference due to these unusual circumstances,” Alexander said in a statement.

Alexander, in his opening remarks, emphasized the necessity of testing and also said the government might make an effort to mass-manufacture a vaccine before it’s been proven to work so it can be quickly distributed once it’s officially approved.

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She also criticized the Trump administration’s tangible response to the virus, saying it has been marked by delays and insufficient assistance to states and health professionals. Additionally, she advocated for another coronavirus stimulus bill to help ease the burden of the economic shutdowns across the country aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

Fauci, when questioned by Alexander, said it would not be reasonable to expect a vaccine to be ready for back-to-school season this year. Trump has said he would like to have a vaccine by the end of the year.

Article Source: Foxnews

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