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Anthony Fauci: Trump never ordered us to slow down testing

President Trump never ordered his coronavirus task force to slow down testing for the pathogen, key members told Congress on Tuesday. “None of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the House…

Anthony Fauci: Trump never ordered us to slow down testing

President Trump never ordered his coronavirus task force to slow down testing for the pathogen, key members told Congress on Tuesday.

“None of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“It’s the opposite, we’re going to be doing more testing, not less,” Dr. Fauci said.

One by one, the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration and Brett Giroir, the country’s testing “czar,” told lawmakers they were not ordered by Mr. Trump to slow down diagnostic efforts.

“The only way that we will be able to understand who has the disease, who is infected and can pass it, to do appropriate contact tracing is to test appropriately, smartly and as many people as we can,” testified Adm. Giroir, an assistant health secretary and four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service.

Mr. Trump’s own remarks sparked the unusual round of questioning. He told a Tulsa rally that testing is a double-edged sword because while it roots out cases, it also makes the country look bad as large numbers of infections are posted on global tracking sites.

He said he told his people to “slow the testing down, please.”

His aides said he was joking, though the president fanned the flames Tuesday by saying: “I don’t kid.”

The U.S. is home to about 330 million people. It has conducted over 25 million tests and discovered over 2.3 million infections. More than 120,000 people in the U.S. have died from the disease, known as COVID-19.

Dr. Fauci said America is looking at a “mixed bag” at this juncture in the pandemic.

“It’s a serious situation. In some respects we’ve done very well,” Dr. Fauci said, citing improvements in hard-hit New York City.

“In other areas of the country, we’ve now seeing a disturbing surge of infections,” he added, citing flare-ups in Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Mr. Trump headed to Arizona on Tuesday to view a section of the border wall and speak to conservative students in Phoenix.

Roughly 20% of those tested in Arizona are coming back positive, suggesting rampant spread after the state reopened its economy.

Dr. Fauci said states seeing a spike will need to devote manpower to testing and tracing cases, so they “can do something about them.”

Governors battered by new cases say many of the infections are hitting younger adults who are unlikely to die from the disease.

Rep. Diana DeGette, Colorado Democrat, asked whether people should link the declining death rate in the U.S. to that trend.

Dr. Fauci said it’s difficult to say, since deaths don’t show up in the data until weeks after cases are detected.

“I think it’s too early to make that kind of link,” Dr. Fauci said. “Deaths always lag considerably behind cases.”

He said the concern is people involved in the localized spikes will infect other people, who might get sick and die.

Committee Chairman Frank Pallone said American testing the virus stumbled out of the gate but appears to be improving. Still, he said the country is short of 900,000 daily tests experts say it needs.

“We are also hampered by the administration’s refusal to develop and implement a national testing and contact tracing strategy,” Mr. Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, said. “This cannot continue — we need federal public health experts to take more of a leadership role, and this administration is failing to allow that.”

Adm. Giroir said the U.S. should be able to conduct 40-50 million per month by fall.

He said test sites are required to report demographic data, to ensure equitable access, and that Morehouse School of Medicine has been awarded $40 million for a three-year project to deliver COVID-19 information to minority communities.

Prior to the testimony, Mr. Trump complained that he didn’t get the same amount of credit as his most famous task-force member.

“We did a great job on CoronaVirus, including the very early ban on China, Ventilator production, and Testing, which is by far the most, and best, in the World. We saved millions of U.S. lives.! Yet the Fake News refuses to acknowledge this in a positive way,” he wrote in a series of tweets on his way to Arizona.

“But they do give 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!”

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Anthony Fauci: No reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote in person

Dr. Anthony Fauci said it should be safe for people to vote in person as long as they take sufficient precautions. “I think if carefully done according to the guidelines, there’s no reason that I can see why that not be the case,” Dr. Fauci told National Geographic in an interview that aired Thursday. He…

Anthony Fauci: No reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote in person

Dr. Anthony Fauci said it should be safe for people to vote in person as long as they take sufficient precautions.

“I think if carefully done according to the guidelines, there’s no reason that I can see why that not be the case,” Dr. Fauci told National Geographic in an interview that aired Thursday.

He pointed out that grocery stores have marks intended to keep people at least six feet apart.

“You can do that,” said Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “If you go and wear a mask, if you observe the physical distancing and don’t have a crowded situation, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that.”

He said people who are at higher risk or don’t want to take the chance can have a vote-by-mail option.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote, in person or otherwise,” he said.

Dr. Fauci’s comments came as Democrats and President Trump are locked in a stalemate over funding for the U.S. Postal Service.

Democrats had pushed for $25 billion for the post office and $3.5 billion for vote-by-mail efforts, though it appeared that negotiators had settled on $10 billion for USPS in the most recent round of negotiations.

Democrats, who have effusively praised Dr. Fauci throughout the course of the pandemic, say the additional money is necessary so people don’t have to risk their health by going to the polls in person.

Mr. Trump said Thursday that near-universal vote-by-mail isn’t going to work without that additional money, which is holding up broader negotiations on the next coronavirus relief package.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Democrats’ $3.5 billion ask for vote-by-mail “fundamentally unserious.”

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Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci recommend face shields

Top members of the White House coronavirus task force now say that face shields and goggles can be effective ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus — the latest shift in messaging from the federal government on the how to contain a pandemic that has now claimed more than 150,000 American lives. Dr. Deborah…

Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci recommend face shields

Top members of the White House coronavirus task force now say that face shields and goggles can be effective ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus — the latest shift in messaging from the federal government on the how to contain a pandemic that has now claimed more than 150,000 American lives.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said masks that cover the nose and mouth are meant to protect others from infection.

“The thing about the face shields — we think that that could protect the individuals and that it would decrease the ability for them to touch their eyes and spread [the] virus as well as those droplets coming towards them,” Dr. Birx said Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week that if people have goggles or eye shields, they should consider using them.

“You have mucosa in the nose, mucosa in the mouth, but you also have mucosa in the eye,” Dr. Fauci told ABC News. “Theoretically, you should protect all the mucosal surfaces.”

The new medical advice came as news was breaking that former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain had become the latest high-profile victim of COVID-19. A supporter of President Trump, the 74-year-old onetime pizza chain executive contracted the virus shortly after attending Mr. Trump’s Tulsa political rally last month.

The coronavirus is believed to be spread primarily through droplets that people expel when sneezing, coughing or talking, though there is some evidence of airborne spread through particles that linger in the air for a longer time.

The coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December. It swiftly blanketed the globe, killing over 668,000 people and now re-emerging in many countries that had once been thought to have the virus under control.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said he, like the public, just heard about the goggles advice.

“I only heard of goggles for the first time about one hour ago. Now I’m hearing about goggles, so I don’t know,” he said during a stop at the American Red Cross national headquarters in D.C.

At the meeting, Dr. Birx said Tennessee is including a mask, face shield, gloves and hand sanitizers in special packs for teachers who go back into the classroom.

Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci and others in the federal government are pleading with ordinary Americans to at least wear a protective mask to help combat the spread of COVID-19 amid a resurgence of cases in the South and West and — most recently — parts of the Midwest.

Message from Trump country

But in the early stages of the pandemic, the Trump administration and top health officials were actively telling people not to wear masks, saying the supplies should be saved for frontline medical workers and there wasn’t necessarily evidence that they helped people avoid contracting the disease.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who urged the public in late February to “stop buying masks,” said Mr. Trump attracted positive attention in Miami for donning one recently.

“I was in Trump country, and they told me to deliver you a message, Mr. President. They told me to tell you you look badass in a face mask,” Dr. Adams told the president on Thursday.

Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the administration’s “testing czar,” said on Thursday that testing is important but it won’t control the national outbreak when there are 70,000 new documented cases per day.

“What will control the outbreak is the personal responsibility that we have been talking about for months,” Adm. Giroir told reporters on a conference call. “Avoid bars, avoid crowded indoor spaces, wear a mask. If you feel sick, stay at home. Protect the vulnerable. Wash your hands. That’s how we control the outbreak. Period. Full stop.”

Mr. Trump also pleaded with COVID-19 survivors Thursday to donate their blood plasma.

The “convalescent” plasma contains antibodies that can help patients fight off the virus. It is part of a trinity of promising treatments that also includes an antiviral drug, remdesivir, and a steroid, dexamethasone.

“If you’ve had the virus, if you donate it would be a terrific thing,” he said at the Red Cross. “You’ve gotten through it, and I guess that means you have something very special there.”

Mr. Trump wore a mask as he visited a donor, Marty Sarsfield. Mr. Sarsfield was hooked up in a basement room and a medical bag filled with his yellow plasma next to him.

“Strong. You’re very famous right now,” Mr. Trump told him.

Elsewhere, Adm. Giroir said there have been signs of progress in some places across the hard-hit Sun Belt but cautioned that no one is declaring mission accomplished.

“No one’s declaring victory. No one’s overly enthusiastic,” he said.

Global reverses

Mr. Trump on Thursday noted that place outside of the U.S. that were praised for their efforts to stamp out the coronavirus are seeing a resurgence, underscoring its wily nature and the need to protect the vulnerable instead of shutting the economy down again.

“Places where they thought they’d really done great,” Mr. Trump said. “It came back, and in a couple of cases came back very strongly.”

He said because of this, a long-term shutdown is not a viable strategy, after the U.S. closed much of its economy in March and April — only to see the virus spike again in certain states.

“It can come rearing back when you least expect it,” Mr. Trump said. “A permanent shutdown would no longer be the answer at all.”

Mr. Trump rattled off a list of countries, such as Australia and Japan, that are seeing spikes, and mentioned blue states where governors were praised for their responses, only to see an uptick.

But critics say the U.S., which has by far the most COVID-19 cases and deaths of any country in the world, likely didn’t shut down deep enough early on or have enough surveillance through testing to get the disease to manageable levels.

However, there have been some promising announcements on vaccine candidates in recent days.

Johnson & Johnson on Thursday announced the health company was starting human trials in its top vaccine candidate after there were promising results from injections in monkeys after a single dose.

The Trump administration has partnered with several companies, including Moderna and Pfizer, on vaccine development and distribution. Those companies both announced progress this week on Phase 3 clinical trials for their vaccine candidates.

The administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” is aiming to facilitate the development of a vaccine by the end of the year.

“We’re not going to cut any corners,” a senior administration official told reporters on a separate conference call Thursday. “If these vaccines are safe and effective, then the regulatory approval process goes appropriately.”

Public and private groups are working overtime to develop a vaccine, or at least therapeutics and treatments like plasma.

The use of plasma from recovered persons to treat patients with the same illness dates back to the 1890s and confers what’s known as “passive immunity,” since the recipient doesn’t produce his or her own antibodies but uses the donor’s, according to Nigel Paneth, a distinguished professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University.

“It works best when given early. It is probably ineffective as a last resort,” he said. “Based on previous infections, ideally it should be given in the first three days of illness, though we don’t have complete data for this on COVID.”

So far, over 50,000 people have received plasma for COVID-19 in the U.S., according to an initiative coordinated by the Mayo Clinic.

Members of Congress who have tested positive for the virus and recovered have donated their plasma and urged fellow survivors to do the same.

As for face shields and eye coverings, other experts have said there could be some benefits but that there hasn’t been extensive research on the topic.

Dr. Donald Milton, a University of Maryland professor who has written extensively on the airborne spread of the virus, said eye protection for people who must have face-to-face contact with others — such as dentists and barbers — is important.

“As personal protective equipment (PPE), eye protection is less important for other people, but still can offer some added protection in addition to face masks,” Dr. Milton said.

He said face shields probably block some release of the virus into the air, but that he would not recommend using face shields as an alternative to masks.

“I also expect that they are not generally as effective at blocking release of virus into the air as are masks,” he said.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci says photo of him without a mask at baseball game is ‘mischievous’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been advising President Trump’s coronavirus task force, came under scrutiny when a photo of him surfaced at a baseball game Thursday not wearing a mask, but sitting close to two people. Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been encouraging the public to wear…

Dr. Anthony Fauci says photo of him without a mask at baseball game is ‘mischievous’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been advising President Trump’s coronavirus task force, came under scrutiny when a photo of him surfaced at a baseball game Thursday not wearing a mask, but sitting close to two people.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been encouraging the public to wear masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

He threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals’ game on Thursday, but a photo of him in the stands with his wife and a friend caught the attention of some reporters. They were not socially distanced, and he had his mask pulled down.

Yasher Ali, a contributor to New York Magazine and Huffington Post, tweeted out the photo, saying the doctor should set a better example. He has since deleted his tweet.

But Dr. Fauci pushed back on the critics Friday on Fox News, saying he was dehydrated and was drinking water. He also noted he tested negative for the coronavirus hours before.

“I was drinking water trying to rehydrate myself,” Dr. Fauci said.

“I wear a mask all the time when I am outside,” he added. “If people want to make something about that they can, but to me, I think that is mischievous.”

Dr. Fauci also predicted there will be a vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of the year or early 2021.

He has come under scrutiny from critics that say Dr. Fauci has been wrong about the virus a number of times. At first, he said masks were not necessary and also suggested travel from China should not have been halted. Since then, he has reversed his position on both issues.

Mr. Trump has even described his adviser, Dr. Fauci, as “an alarmist.”

The president has been critical of masks, saying advisers first said they were not needed but now are saying they should be mandatory. He has since said he will wear one in public when he cannot socially distance after coming under scrutiny by the media for not setting an example for Americans.

Many localities are mandating masks be worn in public — even outside, not just indoors. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented her strict mask mandate earlier this week, only allowing for minor exemptions such as children under 2 years old and people engaging in exercise outdoors.

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