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Fauci, Top Health Experts Testify On U.S. Virus Response; CDC Director: Actions of U.S. Public Key To "Beating This Pandemic"; CDC Director: Actions of U.S. Public Key To "Beating This Pandemic"; Fauci: Cautiously Optimistic A Vaccine Will Be Ready By End Of 2020. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 12:00   ET


REP. ANDY KIM (D-NJ): What I've heard over and over again, is that - that it's about where the responsibility is. This is the responsibility of federal government or the responsibility of states or localities?


And when I talk to the people in my district, what they want to know is about capabilities. And they really don't want to just see this kind of blame game between different parts of our government. The main thing they want to ask is, are we doing everything humanly possible to be able to address this crisis? And is every level of government, including the Federal government, doing everything that they can do this? And if we are not, the American people deserve to know why.

So Dr. Fauci, I wanted to go back to you here, because I just - just to be clear, when I asked you this, and you said that within the capabilities that we were, I want to ask you, would you say that our response at the Federal level to this crisis - would this be considered in your mind, withdrawing all your expertise, is this the gold standard of responses that our Federal government can do? Is there nothing else that you can think of, from your expertise and experience that we could be doing or should be doing, that we're not already doing?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think I just have to repeat what several of us said that within the context of what we have what's available to us, we're doing everything that we possibly can. And I'll just repeat what I said, clearly, the thing that I am responsible for, we are doing everything that we possibly can. Absolutely.

KIM: And within what you see with the - with your position on the task force, for instance, would you - are you confident in the level in which we're using the Defense Production Act to be able to bolster production?

FAUCI: That's something that's really out of my realm Congressman about the extent and the implications of the Defense Production Act.

KIM: What about when it comes to - we have these federally - we had federally backed test sites that we had stood up at 41 across the country, but they've been handed over to states. Are you confident that that was the right move? That we shouldn't be standing up more federally backed test sites that are run by the Federal government right now?

FAUCI: I'm sorry. I'm the question--

KIM: The federally backed test sites that we had stood up, 41 of them across this country, we've been handing them over to the states instead of continuing this in the Federal government's control. Do you feel like that's the right decision?

FAUCI: Yes. I don't think I could give a really good answer to that, because that's not something that I get involved with. So I don't know maybe, Bob, you have any further information about federally funded testing sites, because that's out of the purview of what I do.

KIM: Dr. Redfield, you have any thoughts on this?

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, I think it was important to - as Mr. Chairman alluded to, to begin to enhance and transfer this capacity to these federally funded health clinics and increase that capability. It is a partnership, so I think that these were appropriate moves.

I do think when you ask, are we doing everything that we could do, there is two things I'd like to say. One is, don't miss this opportunity to realize how important it is to make the investment in the core capabilities of public health for the future. Because clearly, we were handicapped when this outbreak started. And we don't need to have that happen again.

Secondly, I don't underestimate who ultimately is the most important in helping us beat this pandemic. And that's the American public themselves.

KIM: I get - look, I get that and - but I find that to be a frustrating narrative, too. Because certainly, all individuals have to take on certain responsibilities to be able to do this. But that feels like we're pushing it off to them. And it feels like that, that responsibility is now being pushed to the American people coming out from that.

And, for instance, as you know, in Congress we passed legislation back in April that includes $25 billion in additional funding for testing and tracing. I'm still hearing that a lot of that hasn't been used. So I wanted to ask you, if you have knowledge of how much of money have has been - hasn't been spent on this, and whether or not the OMB or any other part of the government is holding up access to be able to do that? So we have the capabilities and resources to be able to continue to increase our capabilities.

REDFIELD: It's important Congressman. Of the money - of the $25 billion, which is a significant amount of money, $10,250,000,000 came to CDC. And we got that money out to the states, tribes, local, and county health departments literally within 2, 3, 4 weeks, and that's been all distributed. And now they--

KIM: Just one last question here Dr. Fauci. Do you have thoughts on using rapid antigen testing or paper-strip testing, things like that, that could create more point of care response?

FAUCI: Yes, I can answer that one. Sure. Anything that gets us a quicker, more rapid, more scale up capability of testing is something that would be desirable. And in fact, that was one of the things I mentioned very quickly in the third component of the NIH Strategic Plan, the RADx, which is about $0.5 billion to try and develop exactly the kinds of tests that you're talking about. Rapid, point of care, highly sensitive, highly specific.


KIM: Well, let's try to work on that together.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): The gentleman's time has expired. Ms. Walorski, you are recognized for five minutes.

REP. JACKIE WALORSKI (R-IN): Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you, Dr. Fauci, for hanging out with us. Really appreciate it. I think the one question that I have left today, and I think it's a question the American people want to know, my district certainly wants to know in Indiana.

Is it your opinion? Do you believe, that China covered up the origins of the crisis? You are in this closer than anybody else in our country and the American people listen to what you have to say. I've been asking lots of questions since this Committee was created, because I think China needs to be held to a much higher standard then we're holding them. But do you believe China covered up the origins of the crisis?

FAUCI: Congresswoman, it really depends on what you mean origin of the crisis.

WALORSKI: The beginning of the pandemic.


WALORSKI: The disease itself as it broke on TV, and we saw it.

FAUCI: OK. Got it. Well, I think, from what we know, and I'm sure Bob can also comment on that. From the conversations that we had early on. It was led to believe that early on that this was jumping from an animal to a human in the context of the wet market in Wuhan. And that it was inefficient virus that just jumped from an animal to a human and didn't necessarily spread very well from human-to-human.

At a time when it was clear that there was at least a few weeks and maybe more of transmission from human-to-human that we didn't know about. And then when we finally found out that it was a highly efficient transmitter, from human-to-human. It would have been nice to know about that sooner. WALORSKI: All right. Do you think China is a threat to the American vaccine research that we've been talking about for the past three hours?

FAUCI: Did China do what with the vaccine?

WALORSKI: Do you believe that China is still a threat today to the American vaccine research after we --?

FAUCI: No, I don't think so at all. I think one of the things people need to understand that what we do is really transparent. We publish it, we announce it. So if they want to hack into a computer and find out what the results of a vaccine trial are, they're going to hear about it in the New England Journal of Medicine in a few days anyway.

WALORSKI: So, when I testified earlier, I was talking about the fact that just a few days ago, that our country indicted by the Justice Department to Chinese nationals for hacking the heroes that are working on a vaccine. China has obstructed every single thing that we've done turn that we've made, place that we go, starting all the way back with PPE.

And I was very involved in my district in trying to get PPE, and China was obstructing every single part of the way. And so I think my fellow folks in my district and in this country believe otherwise.

I think the American people want to make sure when we're talking about safe vaccines, when we're talking about the FDA, we're not short cutting safety and those kinds of things. I don't know how in the world that we can stand there and say, "No, I don't think China is a threat to the vaccine production in this country," when we just indicted two people.

And not just two, but I think that I think that question is so important, ma'am - Chairwoman. I think it's so important, I want to reask my question. I can see our Chairman is not here, but to you Madam Chairwoman. I think we need to investigate that answer on cybersecurity. We've already indicted more than two people, but just two people in the last couple of days ago. Why can't we have a hearing in here?

And I understand the Chairman has said before, well, there's other Committees having hearings on the role of China, but nobody's having a hearing on the role of China versus the producers in America and the vaccine process that we are looking for the heroes that are trying to save lives, that wouldn't be appropriate for this Committee.

Can we get a commitment? Can I get a commitment from you sitting in for the Chairman, that we will actually have a hearing and look at this?

WATERS: This Committee is chaired by Mr. Clyburn.

WALORSKI: Right now, it's chaired by you, Madam.

WATERS: I do not intend to give you an answer to a question about how to run this Committee in his absence. You may address him when he returns, not me.

WALORSKI: I appreciate that answer, and I will. But I think for the record, I think we still are owed an answer as to why we can't look at that in this Committee? There's no other Committee set up to look at the vaccine process of oversight than this one, especially having you gentlemen here today. So I would yield back my time and add that for the record. Thank you, Dr. Fauci.

WATERS: Mr. Foster, you are now recognized for five minutes.

REP. BILL FOSTER (D-IL): Thank you, Madam Chair, and to our witnesses. Well, first off, I'd like to second the comments of my colleague, Representative Dr. Mark Green, on the letter that was recently sent from this Committee providing for ongoing, real-time, bipartisan oversight of Operation Warp Speed by the Government Accountability Office, the GAO.

With Dr. Green and myself as the bipartisan points of contact directing the GAO - points of interest to the sub to the Committee. In my time in science, I was involved in billion-dollar research projects that were subject to GAO oversight. They would bring in outside experts. They'd ask hard questions, and they report back to Congress the truth is they see it. Both from a technical and scientific point of view and also a project management point of view, which can often be critical.


GAO is fastidiously, nonpartisan. They would give us real-time briefing, stamp briefings and member briefings and periodic reports on the progress of vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing under Operation Warp Speed.

But they will only give us briefings on a bipartisan basis, which I think is very valuable, because it will be crucial that people believe when vaccines and therapeutics become available that the process was not politicized. That we actually have bipartisan agreement that reasonable decisions, free of conflicts of interest or political intrusion are being made. And that the GAO is intent on not becoming a tool for partisan advantage, which really helps our government work better.

So an example of the sort of thing that I was - I'm interested in having them look into something I was discussing with Dr. Redfield over the break, which is a monoclonal antibody therapeutic manufacturing. There's a lot of the good news is that there is in fact a strong immune response to this virus by the by the human immune system.

This means, among other things, that vaccines are more likely than not to work and it also means that antibody therapeutics are more likely than not to work as they have in recent - against recent viruses.

So we may be in this position where, yes, there's a miracle cure that can then prevent or cure COVID-19, but we do not have the manufacturing to meet the demand, especially given the ongoing flare up of COVID-19 in our country. And so that you can imagine the politics of that will become extremely fraught rapidly when we have to decide how to dispense this potentially lifesaving therapeutics.

And so, it's also a circumstance in which aggressive project management may be crucial. You can imagine - and if you want to produce the maximum number of antibodies, you may say, OK, we are going to choose the most effective antibody from Company A. We are going to produce it using the optimized cell lines from Company B, and we're going to use the high volume production equipment on Company C.

This will require things like the Defense Production Act being used at their fullest. To just leapfrog around issues of things like intellectual property. Already the companies that are optimizing cell lines are getting into patent fights and so on. We don't have time for that.

And so one of the things I'd like the GAO to look too is to make sure that we have in advance the sort of project management - that the contracts that are being made with all of these companies anticipate this or that discussions of where the applications of the Defense Production Act are actually taking place ahead when they'll be needed.

It's just one of many examples there. And so I just want to encourage both of you and an HHS generally to greet with open arms, the GAO oversight. They can - it's not always fun being subject to GAO oversight, but their questions actually make the projects better.

And so, if - and, also, I think you've probably been involved with projects that have been involved with GAO oversight, and so there's a there's a career long association of the GAO personnel and the agencies they represent.

And so that - it's not like you're getting a letter from Congress, we're just kind of roll your eyes and try to do the minimum. These are serious questions. by professionals. So when Dr. Green and I intend to use that to provide real bipartisan information to this Committee and to Congress and to the American people about what's really happening, and I think that will be crucial.

So any of you, do you have any comments on other things that we can do to really make the public confident that the right decisions are being made for the right reasons in this?

FAUCI: Well, thank you for that. Congressman Foster. Yes, I mean, the fact is that we are very transparent in what goes on in Operation Warp Speed. I have been--

FOSTER: But the written public comments by the scientists, the active collaboration, which was set up by HHS, some of the scientists involved in that said, I have no idea what's behind one of the Operation Warp Speed decisions.

FAUCI: So in in direct answer to your question, I think you brought up a good point about the monoclonal antibodies. We didn't get an opportunity to mention this in any of the questions. But monoclonal antibody, just this week, there were two trials that have been initiated. One on an outpatient basis for early patients.

One in an inpatient for more advanced patients, which we really have a lot of anticipation that that is going to be something that is going to be an important tool in the armamentarium of how we treat COVID-19 patients. So I wanted to get that in, because I think that's really important.


Regarding the scrutiny of a GAO or otherwise. I have been - and the many years that I've been doing this, had many GAO looking into the things I've done. In fact, I have found that in many respects, very helpful.

FOSTER: Thank you. Yield back.

WATERS: Gentleman's time has expired. Ms. Velazquez, you are recognized for five minutes.

REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ (D-NY): Thank you, Chairwoman. I want to get back to the delays in testing. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently found that testing sites serving communities of color in big cities are fewer in number, have longer lines and often run out of tests faster when compared to sites in Whiter areas in those same cities.

As former Federal Reserve Chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen told the Select Committee, nothing is more important for restoring economic growth than improving public health. Yet, we have the President that says slow down testing, please. And the most vulnerable among us are being impacted. Frontline workers, small businesses that cannot reopen safely and Black and Latino populations.

So I have some questions along this lines. Dr. Fauci, I have a simple question for you. Do you attribute this inability to control the virus to the delays in testing and contact tracing?

FAUCI: Thank you. Control of the virus is clearly a multi-faceted process that involves many things. The most important of which is what we were just speaking about before, about testing, about masks, crowds, outdoor versus indoor distances, so et cetera, et cetera. We've been through that multiple times during this hearing.

Testing is a part of the process, but the process of controlling infection, when you're talking about contact tracing, obviously, you need testing, and you need testing back within a reasonable period of time. And the concern that you're expressing is for the days that it takes, and Admiral Giroir has addressed that several times during this hearing. But testing is a part of the comprehensive approach, not the only thing, but is part of the approach.

VELAZQUEZ: Thank you. South Korea had rapid results for testing and tracing. And the virus is essentially contained there or gone. Do you agree that what they did with respect to testing helped those countries get the virus on their control? FAUCI: Virus under control of some of the Asian countries were due to a number of factors. Their ability to shut down almost completely, as I mentioned, in a remark before to the tune of 90 plus percent,

VELAZQUEZ: Did they rush to reopen the economy?

FAUCI: No, they shut down, they had the capability because they got down to a very low baseline to do adequate identification, isolation and contact tracing. Right now they are trying to reopen. It's going to remain to be seen how successfully they do that.

VELAZQUEZ: So, for the record, those testing results in the U.S. seeing more COVID cases, as - or are other factors causing the spread? Does testing result in the U.S. seeing more COVID cases or are other factors causing the spread?

FAUCI: I'm sorry.

VELAZQUEZ: OK. So are we seen more COVID-19 cases in the U.S. because of the testing results?

FAUCI: Well, honestly, see, if you do more testing, you're going to see more cases. But the increases that we're seeing are real increasing in cases, that's also reflected by increasing in hospitalization and increasing in deaths.

VELAZQUEZ: Why is that professional sport leagues can get testing turnaround times within 24 hours, but we cannot do it for all Americans?

FAUCI: Well, some of the sports clubs have been using the rapid test, which is really very different from the test that requires extraction of DNA and takes time in a different machine. So they have bought a bunch of machines that allow testing to take place where you get a positive back in five minutes, and you can declare a negative in 15 minutes.


VELAZQUEZ: Dr. Redfield. Do you support the fact - do you agree with the fact that there is a disproportionate testing going on among Latinos, Black, Native Americans?

REDFIELD: I wish the Admiral was here to answer it, but I've heard him answer this before and Tony may comment. That he has set up disproportionally these testing sites in areas that have indications of more complex social economic status.

I don't remember the exact number, maybe Tony does. But more than 70 percent intentionally trying to target areas that may be more disadvantaged. So I wouldn't agree with that statement. But I would like the Admiral to be able to get back to you with the specifics.

VELAZQUEZ: So you haven't seen the long lines in urban cities and also in states where we have large population of Latinos, and Blacks? REDFIELD: I've seen the television lines. What I was trying to say when you said was it specifically disproportionate for Hispanic, Latino or African-American or Native Americans, and I'm not comfortable supporting that comment.

I would rather get the specific data from the Admiral, which I do think the system has really gone over the other way to try to make sure we've enhanced the community health centers and these federally assisted testing sites in areas that are specifically more disadvantaged.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): The gentlelady's time has expired. The Chair yields five minutes to Mr. Raskin.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And if you're trying to still figure out why the administration and our Republican colleagues cannot formulate a plan of action look, no further than the disgraceful diversions and distractions of some of our colleagues today.

I want to address the First Amendment line of questioning first. Our distinguished colleague from Ohio keeps raising, for some reason, the Supreme Court decision in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, which rejected his position just about six weeks ago in a five to four decision.

There a church said that the restrictions limiting the number of people who go to church to 100 were perfectly constitutional, because that was the exact same rule that applied to lectures, concerts, movies, spectator sports, theatrical performances, political party gatherings. And so, in other words, there was no religious discrimination taking place, which is why the Supreme Court rejected the claim. And there is no religious free exercise exemption to public health orders, as you were indicating, I think, Dr. Fauci.

So, the parties in the case cited numerous cases of church gatherings with people unmasked singing, chanting and so on that became super spreader events. There is no religious immunity to this disease, and there is no free exercise exemption to universal public health orders.

Now as for protest, let us not confuse the issue. Whether your protest is a Right Wing protest like Boogaloo and Proud Boys and anti-public health order protesters, like the ones who threaten the life of Governor Whitmer and tried to shut down the Michigan legislature and succeeded in doing so.

Or it's the nonviolent assemblies of millions of people with Black Lives Matter across the country, the kind endorsed by our late beloved colleague, John Lewis, the champion of nonviolence, the same rules must apply. If a jurisdiction has a six foot rule and a masking rule, which I assume and hope every one of them does, it applies equally to everybody.

And the preliminary results suggest and I know because I've been a lot of the Black Lives Matter protests, is people are not getting infected there as much because they are observing those rules. Obviously, when you go to an anti-public health order, anti-masking protests, like the kinds that shut down the legislature in Michigan, most people are not wearing masks and are not observing the public health protocols they've come to try to destroy.

So if you're really concerned about the protests and people getting sick there, and we should be, then we have to look at the use of tear gas and pepper spray. Everybody saw the secret federal officers who are assembled by Attorney General Barr in Oregon, removed the mask of a naval veteran and spray pepper spray right in his face, that's extremely dangerous to remove someone's mask, and then to have them sneezing and coughing and so on. So that's the use of those chemical irritants, I think, which is the real danger.


But Admiral Giroir, what I wanted to ask you was about the role that Jared Kushner has played in developing the administration's approach to - is he still with us or is he - he's gone now. OK. Well, Dr. Fauci, let me turn it into you then.

Do you - are you aware of the role that Jared Kushner has played in developing the administration's approach to diagnostic testing?

FAUCI: I have no knowledge of that, Congressman, because I've not been involved in that. It's fairly been Admiral Giroir being involved in it.

RASKIN: OK. Well, then - I'm sorry I missed Mr. Giroir in the second round. But yesterday Vanity Fair reported something astonishing, which is that Jared Kushner recognized that there was no plan. And he formed a secret working group at the White House in March and April to develop a national testing plan, which operated in a "bubble" and did not coordinate with other experts at HHR - rather HHS.

And they actually came up with a very detailed and potentially effective national testing plan. One person involved said it wasn't rocket science, but it was a real plan in which the government would coordinate the distribution of test kits and an aggressive program of contact tracing across the country.

But the White House reportedly dropped the plan according to this article, "How Jared Kushner's Secret Testing Plan Went Poof into Thin Air," OK. The White House dropped the plan on the political logic that the outbreak was going to be limited to Democratic states. This is back in March in New York and New Jersey.

And you remember, there was a lot of talk about how this was a Blue state disease. And there was somehow some kind of political or ideological immunity to getting it. So they thought it would be a better strategy, just to pit the states against each other in that vicious free for all for equipment and materials, and then blame the governors when everything went wrong. And we've seen the shocking, devastating results of just letting it go and not having a plan at all. With that. I yield back to you, Mr. Chairman.

CLYBURN: I thank the gentleman for yielding back. I think we've finished our second round of questions. And I would like to now yield to the Ranking Member for any closing statements he might want to make.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And again, I want to thank our witnesses for coming here, including Dr. Giroir, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield. You're on the front lines as well as the teams that are behind you working to implement President Trump's plan to combat this virus.

In fact, Dr. Giroir left to go address thousands of people who work under him. He talked about 7,000 deployments that have been made under President Trump's command to have men and women in uniform going on the front lines to help at the state and local level.

We've seen so much work being done in this plan and I keep going back to it, because I know some people want to deny--


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I'm John King in Washington you're listening now to the closing statements. This is the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus. This has been a hearing now for several hours. Three key members of President Trump's Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield of the CDC and Admiral Brett Giroir, the testing czar, have all been testifying for several hours.

It has been largely a political hearing. Republicans making their case. That was Steve Scalise, the Ranking Republican and a member of the leadership the end of saying the President has had a plan from day one, and Democrats just don't like it.

But Steve Scalise making the point that it's been effective. The Democrats saying no, the President may have had a plan on paper, but he has not implemented it. Well, he has not coordinate well with the governments. He has allowed a big testing backlog to develop. And he's allowed states to plow through the White House Task Force's own cautious reopening guidelines.

Let's bring in Dr. Leana Went to discuss. She's an emergency room physician, the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, it's good to see you again. Unfortunately, for most people watching at home, there was a lot of politics here. We're 90 days from election, so I guess some of that is inevitable. You were listening throughout? Do you have a major takeaway? Did you learn anything new, anything helpful?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, the main question that I had going into this, John was, what is our national plan? Do we have one? I mean, that was the name of the hearing, "The Urgent Need For A National Plan". And I don't have an answer to this question.

Either we have one and somehow that can't be articulated, or we don't have one, and we are now six months into the pandemic. I guess, I just don't know what this national strategy is. Even on something as basic as the need for rapid testing, I thought it was just actually quite unbelievable that we've heard answers to, well, why can't we get 48- hour testing?

And the answer is, well, we will be able to do that sometime in the future.