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Fauci, Top Health Experts Testify on U.S. Virus Response; Raskin Questioned Fauci on Statements Trump Made on Virus. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 11:00   ET


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: The overwhelming cumulative evidence of properly conducted randomized controlled trials indicate no therapeutic efficacy for hydroxychloroquine.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): ... should people take hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19?

FAUCI: The overwhelming cumulative evidence of properly conducted randomized control trials indicate no therapeutic efficacy for hydroxychloroquine.

RASKIN: Can people cure themselves of COVID-19 by injecting themselves with disinfectant...


RASKIN: ... or bleach? I'm sorry?


RASKIN: Are you safe from the disease if you go to one of the aforementioned large assemblies, crowds, demonstrations without a mask on and not observing social distancing, if you sign a waiver that you won't sue the sponsor of the event?

FAUCI: I'm not so sure those things are connected, but I'll repeat what I've said multiple times, that being in a crowd, particularly without a mask, is a risk for acquisition and transmission.

RASKIN: OK, so -- but signing a waiver doesn't confer any kind of immunity on you from -- from being infected by the disease?

FAUCI: No, of course not.

RASKIN: All right.

Dr. Fauci, the European governments are in a completely different place. They've got the disease on the run. In fact, the Asian countries have the disease on the run. I saw some remarkable figures, almost every other country on earth is doing far, far better than the United States, except for Brazil, whose president has followed President Trump's policies.

But we have 153,000 dead. Canada, our next-door neighbor, has less than 9,000. We have 17 times the number of -- of deaths from it. China, which of course is much larger than the United States, has lost 4,661 people. We've lost 153,000 people, we -- our rate of death is 36 times higher than China. And on and on.

Do we have the financial resources and the scientific expertise in America to do what other governments have done to bring the infection rate down to something manageable so the end is in sight of this nightmare?

FAUCI: I believe we do have the tools, and certainly there's been a considerable degree of financial investment.

RASKIN: So what is the difference? Why are all of the other countries defeating the disease, and we're not? Why do we not have a plan, a strategy for victory to win, to beat COVID-19?

FAUCI: Well, I believe I addressed that in not only my opening statement, but also in response to the question of one -- the congressman. And that is that when you look at the comparison between Asia and Europe, as is shown by the chairman's poster up there, that when they shut down, they shut down to the tune of about 95 percent, getting their baseline down to tens or hundreds of cases per day...



FAUCI: ... whereas when we did it, we got it down. But unfortunately, our baseline was 20,000 a day...

RASKIN: All right, so we're getting somewhere. But would you agree with me that the critical difference is either the presence or the absence of social cohesion and political leadership to actually develop a plan, execute it and stick to it?

FAUCI: I think there was such a diversity of response in this country from different states, that we really did not have a unified bringing everything down.


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): The gentleman's time has expired, but Dr. Fauci, if you'd like to add more to his question?

FAUCI: No, I -- I think I just answered the question.

RASKIN: The -- I mean, the end of it was essentially, do we need to stop these disgraceful attacks on public health officials...


MALONEY: The gentleman's time has expired, I now...

RASKIN: Thank you, I yield back.

MALONEY: ... recognize Mr. Kim for five minutes.

REP. ANDY KIM (D-NJ): Right, thank you.

Thank you to the witnesses for coming out here today, I appreciate it.

I wanted to just start with a question -- a quick question to the three of you of yes and no, if you're able to. It's a question that comes from a constituent of mine, and the constituent asked me, and I wanted to ask you.

And I'll start with you, Dr. Redfield. Would you assess that our federal government -- the CDC included -- is doing everything possible to respond to the coronavirus crisis? Dr. Redfield?

REDFIELD: I think we -- we do have a comprehensive response. The one comment I want to make is the complexity is, as I mentioned before, for over five decades, we've underinvested in the core capabilities of public health. And hopefully we've seen now the consequences of that. So as I said...


KIM: But with our capabilities right now, would you assess that we're -- that the federal government is doing everything possible?

REDFIELD: Within the capabilities that we do have, recognizing the core capabilities have not been invested in effectively over the last five decades.


Admiral, same question to you. Is our federal government doing everything possible to respond to the coronavirus crisis?

ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: It's -- it's a very broad question. I do agree with Dr. Redfield. I think within the capabilities we have, we are doing that.

KIM: Dr. Fauci, do you agree with your colleagues here, as -- within the capabilities of the federal government, are you doing everything possible to respond to the crisis?

FAUCI: I can only speak very cogently about the agency that I'm responsible for, and I can tell you absolutely, that the National Institutes of Health is really doing everything they possibly can.


And it's really an all-hands-on-deck approach, not only for the institute that I direct -- which is the National Institute of Allergy, Infectious Disease -- but the director of NIH himself is spending most of his time right now on this, even though he's responsible for a lot of other institutes. So I think we are doing about as much as we possibly can.

KIM: Well, I appreciate that, Dr. Fauci.

Admiral, I wanted to turn back to you. I just got a text message from -- from a constituent today that follows up on this type of question. And she -- Laura (ph) -- says, "I got a COVID test 10 days ago at a drive-up testing site, and still do not have the results."

And I know you mentioned before that 76 percent of tests are coming back within five days, but that also means that about a quarter of tests in this country are taking more than five days to be able to get these results back.

So I wanted to ask you, would it be possible for our nation to have results for all COVID tests completed and returned within 48 and 72 hours? Is that a possible benchmark that we can achieve?

GIROIR: it is not a possible benchmark we can achieve today, given the demand and the supply. It is absolutely a benchmark we can achieve, moving forward.

KIM: Now, I guess a question -- so as you said, the demand and the supply. Now, the demand is something that, you know, you don't have an ability to control. But in terms of the supply, when I ask you that question, "Are we doing everything possible to be able to address the needs of the coronavirus crisis?"

What would you say to Laura (ph) here? Is the federal government doing everything that they can possibly to be able to try to get that testing timeline down to 48 to 72 hours?

GIROIR: I do believe we are. As we've talked about, just the raw numbers of things, but we're investing in a number of technologies that will greatly expand point-of-care testing and I think that's the future, to move more and more to point-of-care testing. We're doing that with existing technologies, with new EUAs.

Dr. Fauci talked about the NIH's efforts, and I think there'll be a lot of announcements from them this morning as well. So that's where we're pointing, because point-of-care gives you a result in...

KIM: Well, I was really interested in what you said, you know, earlier in this hearing, which was about, you know, trying to get point-of- care testing to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. I agree with that greatly.

And that feels like it's a place where the federal government is stepping up with additional resources, I'm guessing because the states have been unable to fulfill something of that nature, is that correct?

GIROIR: We -- we always wanted to do that, but we did not have the physical technologies that were available. With the recent approval of a second point-of-care instrument and the manufacturing, we were able to do that, we were not in -- literally as soon as that happened, we put that into -- into gear. And I just wanted to correct (ph)...


KIM: Well, what...


KIM: ... what interests me about that is that this is a situation, again, where -- when it comes to tests, I keep hearing that, you know, this is states' responsibility to kind of take a lead on this, but with the long term care, it seems like this is a place where the federal government is stepping in and trying to surge resources to be able to ...

GIROIR: So this has always been a collaborative relationship, right? So the federal government buys all of the swabs and tubes of media, we deliver that to the states. We buy 40 percent of Abbott ID NOWs, deliver those to the states.

We make affirmative actions for nursing homes, cause that's where 40 to 50 percent is, and everything else is really a collaborative interaction. There's part state, there's part federal. We really do work together on that.

I -- we do not defer everything to the state. If we did, I wouldn't be spending 24/7 with a team of 50 people since March 12th.

KIM: Great, thank you so much. My time is expired. I yield back.

MALONEY: Thank you. Without objection, I would like to place two reports into the record. One is from Forbes and it's entitled "researchers say protests did not increase COVID-19 spread but Republicans are still blaming them." This is one report.

And I have in my hand here -- I have a -- a report and a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that was published last month and this study found that there was no connection between Black Lives Matter and protests in recent months in increased spread of -- of -- of the coronavirus. So without objection, I would like to place both of these studies into the record.

We will now go to a second round of questioning. I'd like to ask the panelists, would you like a five minute break before we begin the next line of -- of -- of questioning? Yeah, OK, so we are -- we are -- we are taking a five minute break and we will be back in five minutes for more questioning.

Thank you.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King, in Washington. You've been watching the hearing the Select Subcommittee to deal with the coronavirus in the House of Representatives.

A quick five-minute break now so that the witnesses, three top scientists on the Trump administration's Coronavirus Task Force, can take a quick break. They will be back in just moments. [11:10:07]

Let's discuss what we just heard with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also with us CNN medical analyst, Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former CDC disease detective.

Interesting. To both of you doctors, I'm interested in your perspective listening to the hearing.

The Democrats are trying to make the case here that from the beginning the president did not have a national plan. And as we saw the seeds of the summer surge beginning, that the president let the states blow through his open coronavirus reopening task force guidelines.

The Republicans instead are spending most of their time saying the president does have a plan, blaming China, saying China lied at the beginning and that's one of the reasons this exists.

And Jim Jordan, at one point, the Republican from Ohio, asking Dr. Fauci whether the protesters were part of the summer surge.

Let me start with you, Dr. Dr. Gupta.

Not a ton new to me here. Assurances that the vaccine research is being done quickly but safely. Did you learn anything new and significant?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I think it's interesting, you know, where they decide to focus their attention in this questioning. You get a sense of just, you know, how politicized this entire environment has become.

KING: Right.

GUPTA: There wasn't a national plan. There isn't a national plan. And there still seems to be this sort of idea that, you know, this needs to be handed off to states instead of having a national plan.

Despite the fact that there's plenty of evidence from around the world that countries developed a national plan because, you know, people move around country, because one school district over here may have to abide by a different sort of plan than a school district in a different community. It's very confusing.

So that's part of the reason why you need a national plan to really bring in pandemic down. And we're still arguing about it, as you just heard, John, at the end of July.

KING: We are.

Dr. Yasmin, one thing that was significant, not necessarily new, but Dr. Fauci, asked at the beginning by the Chairman Jim Clyburn, of South Carolina, why is it that the European Union has had such a flat line and the United States is still up 60,000-plus cases a day.

When both went up, the European Union and United States went up the mountain of coronavirus cases at roughly the same time, the E.U. a little bit before the United States.

And Dr. Fauci did concede it's because, when you had the shutdowns across Europe, they -- they had 95 percent or more shutdowns, he said. And the United States, he said it was much more spotty, that we never got more than half of the country shut down.

Therefore, at the beginning of the summer surge, we still had a baseline of around 20,000 cases a day, which now is close to 80,000 cases a day.

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That's absolutely right, John. So when you look at other parts of the world, the European Union and other countries and Asia and Australia and New Zealand, for example, they had really robust lockdowns. Meaning people were really sheltering-in-place.

And that's how you able to get that number way down. You limit transmission of the virus. And then you very, very carefully ease back those restrictions.

What Dr. Fauci was rightly saying we didn't have that in America. We asked people to shelter-in-place but not done in a uniform way across the country, John. And that's why we continue to have pockets of transmission.

And when we talked about getting down to a baseline, America's baseline continued to be tens of thousands of infections a day. And that was really detrimental to our pandemic response.

It's why we are where we are now still seeing 50,000 or 60,000 infections every single day. So we did not have a robust lockdown. We reopened too early.

And really I need to speak to this point about, in this congressional hearing, we're hearing a lot of blaming happening and we're talking about China. We're talking about the fact that there was a national strategy. There really wasn't.

And we have robust reporting that shows us that the White House had this plan called State Authority Handoff that really shifted responsibility to individual states without giving them the right amount of leadership from the federal level and also without giving them the adequate amount of resources.

KING: All right. And I think it's a key point. If you read the White House reopening guidelines, they are pretty strict. If you listen to the president. at the end of May into June, the president was saying reopen, reopen, reopen more quickly, essentially states to blow through his own rules.

The lack of a national part, the frustrating part for me -- and I don't pretend to understand the science as well as the two doctors present at the table -- is when you just listen to what the people say for the president it sounds great.

Admiral Giroir, we're doing everything we can. You know, now we have a backlog in testing. We're ramping up as quickly as we can.

The tests are useless if you have to wait three days, five days, eight days, 10 days for the result, why take it. You may have been infected in the meantime. But they had the data all along.

Where is the breakdown in terms of ramping up testing to the point that it is everywhere where its needs to be and the turnaround time is what it needs to be.

GUPTA: Well, I think the original sin, if you will, John, is this was greatly minimized from the very start, talking back in February, and -- and into early March, maybe even beyond that. And as a result, this virus continued to spread in the country unchecked. That's why so much more testing is necessary now.


You know, people keep saying, we do more testing than any other country in the world. It doesn't matter. The number of tests is not that important as to what you really need to be doing. Because there's so much more virus in the country, we need to be doing more testing.

But I think even Admiral Giroir, who I interviewed last night, you know, and talking about this, and he sort of conceded this point that we have essentially now gotten to the point, because we have such inadequate testing, that we are just surging it in hot zones.

OK. Here's a fire over here. We've identified the fire with testing. Here's another fire over here. We've identified that fire with testing.

It's not being used to do surveillance testing, finding people, isolating them, tracing their contacts, and possibly quarantining their contacts. We're not able to do that because we don't have adequate testing, there's so much virus, and all of that.

I think the idea of even assurance testing, just to give people assurance. John, you're going to go to work today, you have some assurance you don't have the virus. You have some assurance that people around you are not likely to have the virus. We're not even close to that, the idea of assurance testing.

So I think there's lots of, you know, problems from the very start that have occurred here. But I think those are some of the basic ones from which other things have sort of manifested. We keep changing the goals here.

We're not in any position to be able to do the kind of testing we need, so we say, hey, we'll use testing to identify hot spots. That wasn't the goal. It's only the goal because we haven't cost up on testing yet.

KING: And another problem from the beginning is what I call misinformation or misleading information. And I apologize to doctors every day for asking to clear these things up but should be common sense. But, Dr. Yasmin, as the hearing unfolded, Chairman Clyburn showed a chart -- and I use the chart quite frequently, our own version of it -- that shows the United States is way up here and the European Union is way down here.

They went up the hill about the same time. The United States plateaued and now it's going up again, or now plateauing again. But it's 60,000, 70,000 cases a day. The European Union is down here.

As he was showing a chart, the president of the United States was tweeting, somebody please tell Congressman Clyburn -- the president says he doesn't have a clue. The insults are typical, too, in these tweets. That the chart indicates more cases for the United States than Europeans, "It's because we do much more testing than any other country in the world."

I'm sorry to ask you to do this, because our time should be spent on how somebody out there can deal with: Are my kids going to school? Can I go back to work safely? How big of a crowd is too big of a crowd? That's what we should be focused on.

Please correct the record on why we don't have higher case count just because we're doing more testing.

YASMIN: Right. The president is completely wrong. America is not recording more cases because we are doing more testing.

In fact, John, anyone watching this congressional hearing right now might think that we're doing a great job of testing because the number of 800,000 tests a day kept being mentioned.

But America should be doing four million tests per day if we were serious about suppressing viral spread. And those are numbers that were crunched by scientists at the Harvard Global Health Institute.

We're not recording more cases because of testing. In fact, we are missing many, many cases because we are not doing enough testing.

And the CDC director, Dr. Redfield, has even said that for every American who has tested positive, there are probably 10 to 12 who are infected and don't even realize it because of America's lack of capacity when it comes to one of the most basic elements of pandemic response, which is adequate testing on a daily level.

KING: This is why I'm grateful for the doctors and the other experts who come in here because there's a lot of confusion.

If you're out there watching at home and, as Sanjay noted from the beginning, these hearings get political. The president is up for election in three months. We understand there's going to be politics as times. It's necessary. That's part of democracy. But the facts and basic information.

Sanjay, I want you to listen to one exchange. I believe this is Congressman Raskin, of Maryland, trying to go through some of the things he says he believes that the president says that are wrong and trying to get Dr. Fauci to do the fact-check.


RASKIN: Are children almost immune to the disease?

FAUCI: We have to be --


FAUCI: -- a little more precise. Almost immune. Do children get infected? Yes, they do.

RASKIN: Have hundreds of thousands of children been infected?


RASKIN: Hundreds of thousands of children have been infected. So children are not almost immune to the disease?

Is COVID-19 going to magically disappear, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: I do not believe it will be disappear because it's such a highly transmissible virus. It's unlikely it's going to disappear.

RASKIN: Does wearing a mask give people COVID-19?

FAUCI: Does wearing a mask give it? No.


FAUCI: Not to my knowledge.


KING: The last statement, Congressman Louie Gohmert, who received a positive test, suggested maybe wearing a mask may have contributed to his getting the coronavirus.

Those other two statements were statements that the president has made that Congressman Raskin was asking Dr. Fauci to correct, including just yesterday, Sanjay, when he said young people, quote, "are almost immune to this disease."

They are not, correct?


GUPTA: They are not. They can get infected. And the study that came out yesterday showed that even young children can carry a lot more virus within their nose than I think we've previously realized.

You know, I think people do confuse terms, John, to be somewhat fair here. Immune means that the person does not get infected. It's clear that children get infected.

It is also, you know, the data seems to hold up that young children, in particular, are less likely to get very sick, be hospitalized or die from this, far less likely than adults. So I think the terms matter here.

I remember talking at a town hall and I sort made this idea that people expect a certain amount of certainty when it comes to medical science. It's not like math. It's not like two plus two equals four. Here's the exact scientific conclusion on everything.

There's a bit of -- you know, you have to sort of evolve as you learn more. And we've all evolved here a bit because this is a new virus that we're dealing with. We've all sort of learned as we've gone along.

So the fact-checking is really important. But I think there's a humility as well with all of this. Luckily, you know, for Dr. Fauci, he's mostly dealing with data and facts. There's less opinion and subjective nature to this. But it's not 100 percent certain either as much as people would like that.

KING: Right, which is to the point that things any of us said four months ago. We might have had to say simply not true today. We've learned new information. It's a novel virus.

But when Dr. Fauci does something like that, it's seized on by his critics, who say, a-ha, you were wrong, when everyone has been wrong at some point in this.

The hearing is about to resume up on Capitol Hill. I believe. We'll take a look up there.

Are we ready to go back?

We're going to take -- Chairman Clyburn taking us back to the Hill.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): -- will have a hard stop at 11:45 a.m. That's only about 23 minutes from now. We will go into a second round of questions, but we -- we recognize that you will have to leave. And we appreciate that.


CLYBURN: I think that everybody got their first round in. And so, I'm going to begin the second round. Referring to -- well, I'll yield myself five minutes...


... Thank you.

Now, President Trump has just treated -- tweeted out a statement, that I'm going to quote, in reference to my chart about the -- comparing these cases. He says that, "The United States has far more cases than Europe," and I'm quoting here, "because we do much more testing than any other country in the world. If we had no testing, or bad testing, we would show very few cases." Now, Dr. Fauci, do you agree with the president's statement or do you stand by your previous answer that the difference is caused by multiple factors, including the fact that some states did not do a good job of reopening?

FAUCI: I stand by my previous statement that the increase in cases was done -- was due to a number of factors.

One of which was that in the attempt to reopen that -- in some situations, states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House had put out. And others that even did abide by it, the people in the state were -- were congregating in crowds and not wearing masks.

I might also just bring something that I thought about and mentioned to you before, Mr. Chairman, that when we talk about crowds and masks, it's always better outdoors than indoors, and being crowds indoors is always worse than crowds outdoors. That's the case because of the circulation of air. So we should not -- we should avoid crowds under any circumstances, but wearing a mask is the critical issue, right?

CLYBURN: I agree with that, and I think that I will go to restaurants who allow me to sit outdoors...

FAUCI: Right, yeah.

CLYBURN: ... and not indoors, so I -- I've been following the science and I've been agreeing with all three of you as to how we ought to conduct ourselves.

But let me just say -- and I feel very strongly about this -- that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution means a whole lot to me. I'm sitting here as a result of a protest.

We open up this meeting today, and many of you, Dr. Redfield most especially, and you, Mr. Ranking Member, talk about our great friend John Lewis, with whom I enjoyed a 60-year relationship.


We met protesting, trying to get off the back of the bus, trying to integrate schools, trying to be able to shop in a five-and-ten-cent store and not be arrested for trespassing. Fine for us to get school supplies out of that store, but you can't sit down and eat a hamburger.

I'm glad the government did not limit our protests. And so the First Amendment has constraints. The Supreme Court has told us that. You can't yell "Fire" in a crowded theater, but you can peaceably assemble to bring a -- to redress of grievances. You can do that.

(UNKNOWN): (OFF MIKE) (inaudible), Mr. Chairman.

CLYBURN: Well, I don't think any of those people who were marching out here on this plaza that's now called Black Lives Matter -- Black Lives Matter Plaza, they were not carrying guns. They were not disturbing anybody. They were peaceful. They were

peaceful. When John Lewis went across that Edmund Pettus Bridge, nobody had any reference. They were peaceful. They were wet -- met by weapons.

And so I don't want us to get -- get confused here, and so I'm going to close out my five minutes here by asking whether or not this disconnect that seems to be between what the White House is saying publicly and what they're sending out to the states privately -- and as we mentioned earlier in the letter, several of these states seem to be reacting to the public statements from the White House, and not following the recommendations of the task force that are being sent to them privately.

Now, this week a leaked White House Coronavirus Task Force report paints a very different picture. I've got the document here. This was went out to the states, and those states in the red zone that are refusing to comply, as you heard from us. So I am not being (inaudible) here. We're trying to save lives.

I started my professional career as a public school teacher. I have a daughter who spent 25 years at the -- in a classroom, and she's telling me every day how concerned teachers are about returning to school without the safety precautions that so many school districts have asked us to do.

That is what my concern is. It's not about going back to school. I know the value of going to school. I know what it is to represent a school district where thousands and thousands of children are not -- do not have the Internet and cannot receive online learning.

I want them in a classroom. I want them to be educated, but I want them safe, and that's what this is about. And I'm not going to ask for an answer to that. I've gone over my time, but I'll yield back. I'll yield to the ranking member.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I'll -- I'll start my questions with where the gentleman from South Carolina ended, and that is with safely reopening schools.

I first want to point out that this is a report from the United States Department of Treasury. As of June 30th, based on the CARES Act and the $150 billion that we in Congress, working with President Trump, sent to the states for various COVID-19 recovery issues, every state still has billions of dollars remaining in those accounts.

And I would urge any school system -- because we don't want any school system to open up without safety precautions. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics lays out really well how to safely reopen schools. The Centers for Disease Control lays out very clearly how to safely reopen schools, and that includes masks, sanitizers, other supplies.

Any local school system that wants to claim they don't have the ability to do that, go straight to your governor. Your governor has billions of dollars in their account that we appropriated sitting there, waiting for you to buy supplies. It's fully eligible.

We don't need to change a law -- billions of dollars. Every state has money for supplies. If you run out, give us a call.