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Fauci, Top Health Experts Testify on U.S. Virus Response. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 10:00   ET


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): That you worked with President Trump on and the whole team did.


I know when you go back to the beginning of this, the China ban was very heavily discussed. Were you involved in working with President Trump on deciding to ban flights from China?


SCALISE: Do you agree with that decision?

FAUCI: I do.

SCALISE: Do you think that decision saved lives, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: Yes, I do.

SCALISE: So you agree with the decision when ultimately we saw spread in Europe and then the president recommended that we extend that to Europe. Did you participate in that discussion?

FAUCI: I was actively involved in this discussion, sir.

SCALISE: Do you agree with that decision?

FAUCI: Yes, I do.

SCALISE: Do you think that decision saved lives?

FAUCI: Yes, I do.

SCALISE: Eventually then, we saw the United Kingdom have an outbreak and there had to be a tough decision made. Do we extend that to the United Kingdom? Were you part of that decision?

FAUCI: I was.

SCALISE: And do you agree with that decision as well?

FAUCI: I do.

SCALISE: Did that decision saves lives?

FAUCI: Yes, it did.

SCALISE: When you look at the 15 days to slow the spread, initially, it started at 15. Were you part of the decision to implement that decision?

FAUCI: I was very much involved in that.

SCALISE: Did that decision save lives, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: I believe it did.

SCALISE: Then when President Trump met with you and Dr. Birx to extend that another 30 days, do you agree with that decision that President Trump made to extend that?

FAUCI: Yes, I was very much involved and I agree with it.

SCALISE: Did that decision save lives, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: I believe it did.

SCALISE: So I know we've heard a lot about disagreements. Clearly, there were many decisions made. In fact, there are many very internationally respected doctors that are involved in each of those decisions, is that correct?


SCALISE: By and large, would you say that you and President Trump have been in agreement on most of those decisions?

FAUCI: We were in agreement on virtually all of those.

SCALISE: I appreciate that.

Now, I want to ask you, Dr. Giroir, Admiral Giroir, on the testing that you've been involved in to help carry out parts of President Trump's plan. You just talked about over a million testing machines, 15-minute machines that will be brought into nursing homes across this country. I know ultimately it's going to be 15,000 -- I'm sorry, over a thousand machines that are going to be delivered already. Is that plan in place and moving forward based on President Trump's guidance?


SCALISE: And that money in part was taken from the CARES Act, the bill that we worked with President Trump to pass in a bipartisan way through this Congress, is that correct?

GIROIR: Yes, sir, that's correct.

SCALISE: And I have heard specifically from nursing home directors who have told me that this decision will save more lives in nursing homes. Have you heard the same? GIROIR: There is no question. I don't think any single decision has had more positive feedback than that one.

SCALISE: And I know early off, CMS put out guidelines back in March. These were part of many of the guidelines that CMS put out on guidance to prevent COVID spread in nursing homes. We know that 45 governors followed this guidance. Five governors did not follow this guidance, and we saw in those states tens of thousands of seniors in nursing homes died who shouldn't have died if this guidance was followed by those governors. Do you think they would have saved more lives?

GIROIR: As I have testified here before, I think it's a very concerning practice to send an infectious person back to a nursing home.

SCALISE: Well, thank you, and I wish those governors would have followed the guidance that President Trump's team put out as part of a major overall plan.

Now, Dr. Redfield, I want to talk about you about reopening schools. I know you've been very involved in this. CDC has put out multiple documents of guidance for safely reopening schools, here, checklist for parents, checklist for teachers, guidance K-12, school administrators on the use of cloth face masks in schools. I know some people want to make that controversial. This is President Trump's plan, part of his plan to safely reopening schools, talks about the use of masks.

Here, you've got school decision-making tool for parents, caregivers and guardians. Are these all parts of the president's plan to safely reopen schools?


SCALISE: Have you been involved in developing that with President Trump?


SCALISE: Do you think that schools should safely reopen this fall with in-person learn?

REDFIELD: Yes. I think it's important to realize that it's in the public health best interest of K-12 students to get back in face-to- face learning. There's really very significant public health consequences of the school closure.

SCALISE: Well, for example, they lack the ability to detect child abuse that occurs and is detected often in schools, do you know how much child abuse will not be detected if children aren't returning to the school?

REDFIELD: Clearly, we're seeing less reporting of it. And, again, I think it's a direct consequence of the school closures. 7.1 million kids get their mental health services at schools. They get nutritional support, as we mentioned, from schools. We're seeing an increase in drug use disorder as well as suicide in adolescence individuals.

So I do think it's really important to realize it's not public health versus the economy about school opening. It's public health versus public health of the K-12 to get the schools open. We've got to do it safely and we've got to be able to accommodate --

SCALISE: Well, I appreciate that and I know we're out of time. I hope that the school systems follow President Trump and these great medical doctors' guidance and help the kids in safely reopening.

With that, I thank the witnesses and, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Ranking Member.

The chair now recognizes Mr. Maloney for five minutes.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Ranking Member. And I want to thank all of our witnesses today, particularly Dr. Fauci, who was born in the great City of New York in the beautiful borough of Brooklyn. New Yorkers are very proud that you were a New York-raised and New York doctor before you became America's doctor.

And I must say that as the chairman mentioned, when we had our hearing on March 11th, which I was privileged to chair, when I asked you how was it going to go, you say it's going to get worse and worse and worse. And the next day, everybody started closing down, sports clubs, museums and treating it with the seriousness the disease had to be treated with.

And at that hearing, when asked about testing, you said, and I quote, that we're not really geared up to do what we need right now. In fact, you said, and you called it failing. Now, it's five months later. Where would you rate us now in our efforts? I know my city and other cities have worked diligently trying to respond. Where would you put us now with testing? What do we have to do to continue to get better?

FAUCI: Well, I think you can get a more detailed response from Admiral Giroir, but I'll comment. I think that things are considerably different and improved now than it was several months ago, both for the numbers of tests that have been improved, as well as for the efforts that are going into to expand our capability. In other words, to more prudently have screening testing done in one segment as well as testing to determine diagnosis and follow-up in others. But Dr. Giroir is much better qualified to give you the details of that have.

MALONEY: But I would like to now move to vaccines. That's the challenge now. And I recall reading one of your reports on AIDS and you said, I will never retire until we have a vaccine. We still don't have a vaccine for AIDS. Ebola took five years. How realistic is a vaccine? Is it dreaming or is it a reality or are the protocols as safe as they probably could be as we've always had for vaccines? Could you give us an honest assessment of where our country is in vaccine development?

FAUCI: Yes, it's reality, Congresswoman Maloney. I believe it will occur. I think the difference between HIV and coronavirus is so different that I don't think you compare them because the body does not make a have good immune response against HIV. So it made vaccine development very difficult, whereas the body does make a robust immune response against coronavirus, which tells us that I believe that we can get to that goal.

I know to some people this seems like it is so fast that there might be compromising of safety and in scientific integrity it, and I can tell you that is absolutely not the case. The rapidity with which we're doing it is as a result of very different technologies in getting from the time we recognized this pathogen in the beginning of January to the time we were able to get into a phase one trial, to the time we were able to do phase two, and then, as I mention just this past Monday, we started a phase three. That was not reckless rushing. That was technology and doing things in a way that does not compromise any of the steps.

So I believe that it's realistic, as I mentioned in my opening statement, that the early data from the phase one trial shows that this candidate, and I'm sure other candidates will do it also. This is not the only vaccine. There are more than one. There are about a dozen, five or six that the federal government is actively involved with, is going into phase three trials over the next few months, as I mentioned, one of which is already in.

The response that was induced was really quite favorable. And as I've said often and I will repeat it for the record now, there's never a guarantee that you're going to get a safe and effective vaccine. But from everything that we've seen now in the animal data, as well as the early human data, we feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021.

So I don't think it's dreaming, Congresswoman. I believe it's a reality, and it will be shown to be a reality.

MALONEY: That's a very good news.

The second step is how do we distribute it, and also reports are that China and Russia are involved in their tests and that they have advanced tests across the world. They are testing in Brazil, in Indonesia for their vaccines.


Should they develop one earlier, would we manufacture it here? When we develop, it how do we plan to distribute it?

We also have to think about the world because if we don't cure it in the world, then we haven't cured it too, so the steps forward after the vaccine is developed.

FAUCI: Sure. There are a couple of questions there I'll try to answer them quickly, Congresswoman.

So, the first thing is, I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone. Because claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic at best.

We are going very quickly had. I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines. I believe the program that is being sponsored by us right now and being directed and implemented by us is going at a very rapid speed, prudent but rapid.

Now, with regard to distribution, already right now, there are plans, as was mentioned, I believe, by Ranking Member Scalise, that we're taking at risk, financial risk, not safety risk, but financial risk, the development of doses of vaccines right now as we speak so that they will be ready by the time we do show safety and efficacy, we'll be able to distribute it.

And it will be done by a number of mechanisms, the standard mechanism working with the recommendation by the ACIP together with the CDC now being complimented by recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine and in collaboration with the Department of Defense and the CDC working together, it will be distributed.

MALONEY: Thank you. My time has expired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Dr. Fauci. The chair now recognizes Ms. Walorski for five minutes.

REP. JACKIE WALORSKI (R-IN): Thank you, Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you for your service. Thank you for being here today.

I think, arguably, the most important thing that the federal government is working on right now is insuring, and I'm an optimist, and listening to you this morning, I'm still optimistic that we're going to use the term when and not if when it comes to getting a vaccine shown through trials to be safe and effective, that we have manufacturing and distribution capabilities to go and get it across the nation quickly. I believe that.

President Trump has already announced Operation Warp Speed to achieve the goal of offering 300 million doses of an approved vaccine by January of 2021. It's leveraging the full strength of the public and private sectors, the partnerships that are there and becoming partnerships, is unprecedented in this country, and I salute that.

AstraZeneca told the Energy and Commerce Committee a few days ago that this deal with the federal government stipulates that it will sell 300 million doses to the government at no profit. Johnson and Johnson similarly said it will provide its vaccine at a not-for-profit price. Other companies working on vaccines have also promised low prices.

Dr. Fauci, between the promises for low prices and existing government programs that cover the costs of a vaccine, is it safe to say that every American will be able to get a vaccine once it's approved?

FAUCI: Given what you've mentioned which I agree with, the promises of the company about hundreds of millions of doses, I believe, ultimately, over a period of time in 2021, if we have, and I think we will have, a safe and effective vaccine, that Americans will be able to get it. I don't think that we'll have everybody getting it immediately in the beginning. It probably will be phased in, and that's the reason why we have the committees to do the prioritization of who should get it first.

But, ultimately, within a reasonable period of time, the plans now allow for any American who needs a vaccine to get it within the year 2020.

WALORSKI: Right, and that is the plan.

Staying on the topic of vaccines, Dr. Fauci, it's my understanding that Operation Warp Speed enabled clinical trials for the most promising vaccine candidates to be run simultaneously, which will get a vaccine to the market much more faster than normal.

My understanding from listening to you just a few minutes ago, we have eliminated no safety steps in the vaccine approval process, correct?

FAUCI: That is correct.

WALORSKI: Again, just to be clear, so the folks that are watching this are hearing this clearly, concisely and truthfully from you, the FDA is not compromising safety standards in order to speed up vaccine process approval, correct?

FAUCI: Well, I would say it a different way.


FAUCI: We at the NIH are doing the vaccine studies with the companies. The FDA will look at that data and on a science-based decision will make a determination as to the safety and efficacy and whether or not it will be approved.

So the FDA is a science-based decision-maker.

WALORSKI: But as far as you know in that, I agree, but the FDA is not compromising safety standards?


WALORSKI: No way, no how is the FDA compromising safety standards and their answers and their approvals are based on science?


FAUCI: Yes. Historically, the FDA has based their decisions on science. They will do it this time also, I'm sure.

WALORSKI: I appreciate it. Thanks for your assurances that we'll have a safe, affordable and widely available vaccine for the American people. All of America is praying that one of these promising candidates comes through. That's why I'm so disappointed we've seen some on the other side of the aisle speculate aloud that the administration might rush an unsafe vaccine to the market before the election to help President Trump politically. This irresponsible rhetoric only serves to plant irrational fears in the minds of Americans. I'm worried that enough of these types of attacks could result in people avoiding an approved vaccine when it does come to market, when it is available for Americans.

Dr. Fauci, can you address this once and for all? Would the administration approve a vaccine that's not safe, and do you share my concern about the danger of undermining faith in the vaccine development process?

FAUCI: The commission of FDA Dr. Stephen Hahn has assured me and has spoken publicly that he would make sure that any decision on the part of the FDA will be based on sound scientific data, proving the safety and the efficacy. He's told me that and he's been very public about that.

Given that, I think the American public should be assured that in the process of determining the safety and efficacy, the proper steps have been taken to determine that. And when a vaccine becomes available, it's important for their own health and for the health of the country to take that vaccine.

WALORSKI: I appreciate that. Thank you, gentlemen.

I can't let this moment pass without bringing to all of our attention again and to the chairman that just last week, the Justice Department indicted two Chinese nationals for hacking had companies that are working on a vaccine. We sent a strong message to China, this will not be tolerated.

I'm glad the administration took action by naming and shaming those involved as well as closing down a Chinese consulate that was a hub for intellectual property and trade secret theft. We must hold China accountable, Mr. Chairman. We have to.

Mr. Chairman, before I close, can you commit to holding a hearing on the threat of Chinese espionage on vaccine products, vaccine producers, Mr. Chairman, whoever is sitting in for Mr. Chairman? Will you prompts me that we will hold a hearing on the threat of Chinese espionage on vaccine producers?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): The chairman is not here to answer the question. You have a few seconds left. Your time has expired.

WALORSKI: Mr. Chairman, this is a grave threat. For the record --

WATERS: Thank you.

WALORSKI: -- Mr. Chairman, this is a grave threat to our country and the world of China is hacking our companies. I seriously hope the chairman will take my recommendation. I yield back.

WATERS: I will now recognize myself for five minutes.

On July 10th, the Trump administration ordered hospitals to change how they reported hospitalization rates, testing numbers and other data related to the coronavirus. Instead of reporting to the CDC, which hospitals have done for more than a decade, they were instructed to start reporting data to the Trump administration directly, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services.

They were given just two days to prepare for this drastic change leading health groups warned that the changes in data reporting will, quote, worsen our ability to mitigate, suppress and recover from our national public health emergency, unquote.

Other experts are concerned that this decision may have been made so that the Trump administration could control and hide data it finds politically inconvenient.

Dr. Redfield, when did you first learn that the administration planned to move the data from CDC to a different portal run by HHS?

REDFIELD: Well, Congresswoman, we weren't directly involved in the final decision, but what I can say is that CDC then and now continues to have access to all data, does all data analytics so there's no restriction of any of the data, and that data will continue to forward-face the American public.

WATERS: Dr. Redfield, when did you first learn? When were you first told? When were you first notified?

REDFIELD: Again, as I mentioned, I wasn't involved in the decision.

WATERS: So you were never --

REDFIELD: I don't remember the exact date.

WATERS: Am I to understand that you were not told at all?

REDFIELD: Well, I was told actually once the Secretary's Office made the decision that that was the decision, and we worked together.

WATERS: So how long was that?

REDFIELD: I don't remember, but I can get back to you the exact date.


REDFIELD: But we did work in cooperation to help make sure that this was done in a --

WATERS: Reclaiming my time. Did you agree with this decision, Dr. Redfield?

REDFIELD: Again, I think it was an important decision in light of --

WATERS: Did you agree with the decision?

REDFIELD: Yes, I said it's an important decision.

WATERS: Thank you. Did you discuss this change with Vice President Pence or with Secretary Azar? [10:20:00]

REDFIELD: Not directly.

WATERS: Indirectly?

REDFIELD: I talked directly with the individuals responsible within the Secretary's Office.

WATERS: But did you discuss it with Vice President Pence?


WATERS: Did you discuss it with Secretary Azar?


WATERS: Who told you about the reasons for this change?

REDFIELD: Well, I think we collectively understood the reasons, if I can answer, is there was substantial advancements in therapeutics with remdesivir, which made it really important to be able to understand who was newly hospitalized in real-time that day. So allocations of remdesivir could get to that hospital.

WATERS: I thank you very much for that. And so you developed the reasons. No one dictated the reasons or told you the reasons for the change? You came up with the reasons?

REDFIELD: Congressman, yes, I think it was important that we were able to, in real-time, be able to know where remdesivir needed to go, and the system that we had developed, the National Healthcare Safety Network that we do for --

WATERS: So were you told about the changes, why they were being done, or did you and others develop the changes? Who told you?

REDFIELD: We worked together cooperatively together, the members of the HHS and CDC in recognizing the importance for this changes.

WATERS: Okay. I only have so much time. The Trump administration has threatened to cut off the supplies of remdesivir to hospitals that do not follow the new reporting mandates. Dr. Redfield, this is the only drug known to successfully treat the coronavirus. Should a patient be denied access to a potentially life-saving drug like remdesivir because a hospital was unable to comply with the sudden change in HHS reporting requirements?

REDFIELD: My understanding is we continue to do everything to make sure remdesivir gets to all patients that would potentially benefit from it.

WATERS: But do you agree that they may not be able to get it to patients because of the way that the information was given and the timeframe that it was given in? REDFIELD: Congresswoman, I would disagree. I think the reason the changes were made was to ensure that individuals could get access to remdesivir in a timely fashion.

WATERS: Would you agree that we basically -- well, this is the only drug known to successfully treat the coronavirus. Should a patient be denied access to a potentially life-saving drug like remdesivir because a hospital was unable to comply with the sudden change in HHS reporting requirements?

REDFIELD: And, again, I'm trying to say I think the intent and the consequence of what was done was to ensure that patients aren't denied access to remdesivir, to make sure we get timely distribution to the hospitals where these the patients are.

WATERS: Thank you very much. I'm exhausted my time.

Next, we will hear from Mr. Foster, I believe.

Mr. Luetkemeyer is next. Thank you. You are recognized for five minutes, Mr. Luetkemeyer.

REP. BLAINE LUETKEMEYER (R-MO): Thank you. And I thank the witnesses for being here today. I appreciate your testimony and your expertise.

Dr. Redfield, on Tuesday, July the 14th, you stated that, right now, we're seeing, sadly, far greater suicides than we are deaths from COVID. We're seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose than are above excess than we had as background, than we're seeing deaths from COVID.

Since the pandemic began, alcohol sales have increased by more than 25 percent and suspected drug overdoses have climbed 18 percent. I've said this almost every hearing. We need to make sure we're looking at both sides of this healthcare issue. We're targeting our approach right now to take care of those with COVID but we also need to make sure that we're looking at the severe unintended consequences, like substance abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse that are occurring due to the economic shutdowns that took place across the country because these instance will likely be around for longer than the virus itself.

So, Dr. Redfield, do you believe that the blanket shutdowns happening throughout the country are contributing to the drastic increases in substance abuse and suicides, the lack of cancer screenings and treatments and operations and other things like that that we've sort of left out of the picture here as a result of our total focus on COVID?

REDFIELD: Congressman, I thank you for the question. I think it is really important as we reopen America now that we're much more surgical about those situations that are curtailed. So, as you mentioned, we clearly have consequences for the decrease in immunization in children. We clearly have consequences for the lack of cancer screening. There are clearly consequences for delayed surgeries that were elective that now are semi-elective. There are clearly are consequences, substance abuse and mental health services. So it really is important as we reopen our nation that we really ensure that there's not these unintended consequences that I think the reality is did occur during March, April and May.


LUETKEMEYER: You know, there was an article that appeared in one of the local magazines with regards to trying to quantify that figure, and they did. And they came up with a figure of around 65,000 people per month that were dying because of the lack of healthcare that was either being postponed, denied, waived, whatever, versus our total focus on COVID.

Dr. Fauci, I have watched a number of your press conferences and I've seen you articulate a lot about COVID, but I've never seen you talk about this other part of the healthcare spectrum that we need to be concerning also. Would you like to comment on that and give me your position on that, please?

FAUCI: Yes, I actually have commented on that when I've said most recently talking about schools that I think that a default position, despite the fact that we have to have flexibility, would be to try as best as we possibly can in the context of the safety of the children

and the teachers to open the schools for the very reasons that I think you mentioned and that Dr. Redfield mentioned because of the negative consequences on children from a psychological standpoint as well as the downstream unintended consequences on families.

LUETKEMEYER: You know, one of the problems that we all have here on this committee is we're sitting here looking at the consequences of a problem that we have with COVID. We're looking at the consequences we have of not attending to the healthcare needs of the rest of society and we have to sit here and figure out how do we manage this? How do you we look at both sides of this? How do we, from 30,000 feet, make sure that everybody is taken care of?

And our position, what would you recommend, Dr. Redfield, in how we should approach this problem?

REDFIELD: Again, I just want to echo what Dr. Fauci said earlier. We think that if you do five things. We can accomplish as much as we did in shutting down this nation, wear a face covering.

LUETKEMEYER: All of those things will be able to put us back.

REDFIELD: Will put us back --

LUETKEMEYER: And we can address the other part of this as well?

REDFIELD: We can get back without these unintended consequences, the face masks, the social distancing, the hand hygiene, staying smart about gatherings and staying out of crowded bars and restaurants. If we did those five things, we've done modeling data, we get the same bang for the buck as if we shut the entire economy down.

LUETKEMEYER: Okay. Now you've commented quite a bit this morning already on the school openings and your comment was, you know, it's not about the economy or public health, it's about public health versus public health. I've got some grandkids and I want them to go back to the school. I think for their own health, we need to be doing it. And I think you made the comment that you have grandchildren and would like to see that as well.

Would you like to comment on the other part of this, again, the unintended consequence of the problems with child abuse that's not being reported because most of it -- a lot of it is reported by teachers? We've seen that go down. We've seen emergency cases in emergency rooms go up as a result of this. Can you comment on some of that, please?

REDFIELD: I just -- Congressman, thank you. I just want to reemphasize because I don't think I can emphasize it enough, as the director of the Centers for Disease Case Control, the leading public health agency in the world, it is in the public health interest that these K-12 students to get these schools back open for face-to-face learning. Mental health service, 7.1 million kids get it in school. Nutrition, we talked about it. Reporting of child abuse, sexual abuse, mandatory in schools. The isolation that these adolescents are feeling that now is associated with increase, as you mentioned, increased drug overdose deaths and now increased suicides, I think it is really important as a grandfather, 11 grandkids, I want these kids back in school.

I have one grandchild with cystic fibrosis. I want it done smartly, right, but I think we have to be honest that the public health interest of the students in this nation right now is to get a quality education and face-to-face learning and we need to get on with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the gentleman's time has expired.

The chair now recognizes for five minutes Ms. Velazquez.

REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member.

Gentlemen, it has been six months since this crisis, yet new infections are still climbing in many states. Many hospitals are at capacity and thousands of Americans are dying. I am concerned about widespread delays and test results are contributing to this problem.

In Arizona, the test and positivity rate is over 20 percent but test results have been in delayed by up to 16 days. In Florida, many hospitals in the state are near or at capacity but results can take over a week. In Georgia, some companies have reported average processing times of five to ten days.

Dr. Fauci, you've said in a recent interview, and I quote, if you're going to do contact tracing and the test come back in five to seven days.