Anthony S. Fauci and other Trump administration health officials are expected to caution that coronavirus activity could continue for “some time”as they testify at a high-profile congressional hearing Tuesday at a key juncture in the country’s response to the pandemic.
With cases rising in nearly half of the states and a White House eager to return to normal, Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and three other key officials are scheduled to appear before a House panel overseeing the administration’s response.
The testimony will be Fauci’s first since a highly anticipated appearance a month ago, and it comes on the heels of President Trump’s comments at a controversial campaign rally over the weekend that he asked officials to slow testing to show fewer cases. Aides later said the comment was made in jest, but it prompted a fresh round of criticism that Trump is seeking to minimize the challenges that loom in recovering from the virus.
The statement warns that if coronavirus activity continues into the upcoming flu season, “this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety.”
The statement also calls testing “an essential component of our nation’s response” and says a “safe and effective vaccine” will be “essential to stopping the spread of infection, reducing rates of morbidity and mortality, and preventing future outbreaks.”
Fauci is scheduled to be joined before the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control; Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration; and Brett Giroir, head of the U.S. Public Health Service.
In announcing the hearing, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) signaled that the Democrats on the panel plan to grill the witnesses both on past actions and plans for the future.
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“There have been a lot of unfortunate missteps in the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement. “As communities across the country ease social distancing guidance and reopen their economies, it is critically important that both the administration and Congress remain focused on containing the spread of the coronavirus and providing the resources and support Americans need during this time of crisis.”
Last week, Vice President Pence, who leads the coronavirus task force, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal saying the administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus should be “a cause for celebration.”
As of Tuesday, at least 118,000 people have died from covid-19 in the United States, and more than 2.2 million have been infected with the coronavirus, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.
The hearing comes as Trump has been speaking less frequently with Fauci and other health experts on the White House’s coronavirus task force and in the aftermath of several recent public disagreements between Trump and Fauci.
Fauci publicly expressed concerns about the potential for spread of cases at the Trump campaign rally over the weekend, saying it was the kind of event he would not attend.
Trump, meanwhile, pushed back on comments Fauci made to CNN that it would be “very hard” for the National Football League to conduct a safe season without having players in “a bubble” without outside interaction.
“Tony Fauci has nothing to do with NFL Football,” Trump tweeted. “They are planning a very safe and controlled opening.”