Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci resisted efforts by Republicans to criticize recent protests against racial injustice while pushing back on their continued promotion of hydroxycholoroquine as a possible coronavirus remedy in Congress on Friday.
Fauci reiterated his belief that a safe and effective vaccine would begin rolling out in early 2021 in a phased manner - with the most vulnerable first in line.
"We are cautiously optimistic that this will be successful", he said of Moderna's mRNA-1273 candidate.
Also during Friday's hearing, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who chairs the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, asked Fauci why the US has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than Europe.
Dr. Anthony Fauci the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was asked why Europe has been able to largely contain the virus while the United States has seen a rise in new cases. The piecemeal approach to control the virus in the US has been scrutinized and the subject of debate, especially as other countries have seemingly managed to control its spread and lower the number of infections.
Fauci, who made headlines in March by describing US testing efforts as a failing, repeatedly handed off questions about the current state of testing from Democrats critical of Trump to get him to characterize the current situation to witnesses more directly involved with that effort.
As of Friday morning, the USA reported more than 4.49 million COVID-19 cases, with 152,082 deaths, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University. "If we had no testing, or bad testing, we would show very few CASES". "But I have not seen it yet that's done", Fauci said.
When Jordan pressed Fauci on whether protests help spread coronavirus, the health official said, "I can tell you that crowds are known, particularly when you don't have a mask, to increase the acquisition and transmission, no matter what the crowd is".
In his defense, Fauci said he was "not favoring one crowd versus another crowd". "I have to go with the data".
A veteran of six Republican and Democratic administrations, Fauci has become the most familiar face of the administration's coronavirus task force. "You just said protests increase the spread, should we try to limit the protests?"
Fauci made the comment while testifying before House lawmakers on the federal response to the pandemic, alongside the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the government's testing czar. That includes the need to wear masks, avoid crowds and practice good hand hygiene, he said.
In response to Luetkemeyer, Fauci said the particular study he cited was not controlled and was riddled with "confounding issues" - one being that coronavirus patients who received hydroxychloroquine were simultaneously treated with steroids, which has been shown on its own to improve outcomes for weakened patients. This testing, and what we have so quickly done, is used as a Fake News weapon.