Dr. Anthony Fauci waits to testify before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Washington, DC, June 23, 2020 (Kevin Dietsch /Reuters)
The White House’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, pushes aside Donald Trump’s posturing to warn of a “disturbing surge” in Coronavirus.
Fauci told a House hearing on Tuesday of the rise in infections in 28 states, following Trump’s demands — against medical advice — for a quick “re-opening” of the US.
The doctor cited the flouting of social-distancing measures and of inadequate plans for testing and tracing the virus, three days after Trump called for a reduction of the tests because they reveal confirmed cases.
Directly contradicting Trump, he told the legislators, “The virus is not going to disappear.”
The US death toll reached 121,228 on Tuesday. There are almost 2.35 million confirmed cases.
Seventeen states have recorded a surge of at least 50% in cases over the past 14 days. They include Montana (258%); Oklahoma (253%), where Trump held a failed campaign rally on Saturday; Hawaii and Idaho (each 176%); Florida (172%); Wyoming (154%); Arizona (150%); Michigan (141%); and Texas (136%), which recorded its highest daily total of more than 5,000 cases on Tuesday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Trump ally who was one of the first state leaders to lift restrictions, told residents on Tuesday, “Because the spread is so rampant right now, there is never a reason for you to have to leave your home unless you do need to go out. The safest place for you is at your home.”
“Critical” Next Two Weeks
Fauci noted that some areas such as New York, the hardest-hit state with 31,232 deaths, were “doing very well” in containing the virus, but he warned about the rise, notably in states with Trump-allied Republican governors, “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we are seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona and other states.”
He and Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned of the intersection of Coronavirus and the flu season this winter with “two respiratory-borne infections simultaneously confounding each other”.
While trying to back Trump, Adm. Brett Giroir, the Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services, conceded that 500,000 tests per day were not enough. Redfield said the US has only 28,000 contract tracers, rather than the 100,000 needed.
Contradicting Trump on Testing
Trump told an audience in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday:
When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, “Slow the testing down, please.” They test and they test.
Defying his campaign’s cover-up that he was “joking”, Trump told reporters on Tuesday, “I don’t kid.”
All four experts — Fauci; Redfield; Giroir; and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the director of the Food and Drug Administration — pushed back and said they knew of no request for a reduction. Giroir explained:
We are proceeding in just the opposite — we want to do more testing and of higher quality.
The only way that we will be able to understand who has the disease, who is infected, and can pass it, and to do appropriate contact tracing is to test appropriately, smartly — and as many people as we can.
Fauci implicitly rejected Trump’s dismissal of the surge in cases as simply the result of more tests. The doctor said that areas such as North Carolina and Arizona indicated a spread of “additional infections that are responsible for those increases”.
Focusing on re-election and the stock market, Trump’s inner circle have hidden Fauci and other medical advisors. White House daily briefings were suspended last month after ridicule of Trump’s recommendation of ingestion of disinfectant and ultraviolet treatment as “cures”. Trump backed off a threat to shut down the White House Coronavirus Task Force, but it has not issued a statement for weeks.
Fauci testified on Tuesday of other curbs, including the cancellation of a $3 million research grant for a group studying Coronavirus in bats in Wuhan, China, the initial epicenter of the pandemic.
“It was canceled because the NIH [National Institutes of Health] was told to cancel it,” Fauci said. “I don’t know the reason, but we were told to cancel it.”
Just before the hearing, Trump complained on Twitter that Fauci was getting credit for dealing with Coronavirus:
….Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is with us in all ways, a very high 72% Approval Rating. So, if he is in charge along with V.P. etc., and with us doing all of these really good things, why doesn’t the Lamestream Media treat us as they should? Answer: Because they are Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020