Fauci says virus not under control in US
She said: “In the last 16 weeks over 1.3 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus, 80,000 people have died and 30 million people have lost their jobs. Dr Fauci you have advised six presidents, do we have coronavirus contained?”
The US top public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci, testifying remotely, responded starkly: “If you mean ‘do we have it under control?’, no.”
Fauci pointed out that new cases and deaths are declining in New York, the country’s (and indeed the world’s) most serious coronavirus hotspot in April, but “in other parts of the country we are seeing spikes,” he said.
Numbers in some places are coming down, he said, and added that the US is “going in the right direction - but it does not mean by any means that we have it under control.”
Fauci confirmed Warren quoting that the US is seeing 25,000 new infections a day and 2,000 deaths a day right.
Warren said: “We know it’s possible to get this virus under control.”
She said South Korea was the best example. But she said that “we are three months in and we continue to set records for cases and deaths.”
Fauci warned again that if there are not sufficient systems put in place by the fall, for testing, contact tracing and other measures, that there will “inevitably” be a second wave of illness in the US.
Warren concluded: “The time for magical thinking is over, we are running out of time to save lives.”
Supreme court heard arguments on Trump's taxes
Oral arguments just finished in the (remote) session, hearing cases about Donald Trump’s tax records and finances.
Supreme Court justices are asking whether there is any limit to Congress’s ability to subpoena records related to the president.
Here’s invaluable background from my colleague Martin Pengelly, who wrote earlier:
When Trump ran for president in 2016, he bucked tradition by refusing to release such information. Saying he was under audit, which would not in fact have precluded action, he promised to release his returns in due course. He has not.
Details of the president’s tax affairs have been reported by various outlets, the New York Times winning a Pulitzer in 2019 for a wide-ranging investigation which the prize committee said “debunked [Trump’s] claims of self-made wealth and revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges”.
But Trump’s taxes remain one of the most tantalising mysteries in American politics.
Scotus is taking up Trump’s bid to shield his bank and financial records from Congress, The AP reports.
Several justices want to know whether there’s a limit to ensure subpoenas aren’t used to harass the president.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked a lawyer arguing Tuesday on behalf of the House of Representatives: The concern has been expressed that Congress could be using this subpoena power to harass a political rival ... so what is the limiting principle?”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh is one of Trump’s two nominees to the court. Kavanaugh asked the lawyer for the House: The question then boils down to how can we both protect the House’s interest in obtaining information it needs to legislate but also protect the presidency. How can the court balance those interests?
Trump is fighting subpoenas by congressional committees and Manhattan prosecutors for tax records. The court is hearing arguments by phone because of the coronavirus.
There are few senators in the actual hearing room on Capitol Hill.
One instantly-recognizable character is libertarian Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. He’s not wearing a mask, instead wearing a chunky beard. Paul, of course, had coronavirus early in the epidemic and was the first senator to be so diagnosed, in later March.
Also in the room is Republican Susan Collins, of Maine, also not waring a mask. Senators and the few staff present are sitting very far apart from each other.
Also visible Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, of Virginia, who is generally known to be a stronger senator than he was a veep pick for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The ticket was not a smash-hit. Many are hoping Joe Biden will make a much more exciting choice.
It cannot fail to be observed that Kaine looks like an old-fashioned highway robber, with a colorful bandanna tied around his face. But at least he, like many of the small numbers of staff dotted around the periphery of the room, is wearing a face covering.
He greeted Republican (and masked) Senator Richard Burr with an elbow bump, though Burr may have later taken his mask off, per the Twitterverse.
Some others are not complying, or are showing spotty adherence....
Sanders demands any vaccine be available to all Americans
Bernie Sanders just pressed Senate hearing witness Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health, that if (hopefully when) a successful vaccine is developed to immunize people against Covid-19 that it reaches all Americans “regardless of income” or any health situations.
Giroir said it was his office’s job to serve “all segments of society”. When Sanders pressed him again on whether everyone would get the vaccine, Giroir began to say “they should, I do not represent..”
But Sanders cut him off, saying: “You represent an administration that makes that decision.”
Giroir asserted that, yes, all Americans would have access to the vaccine regardless of ability to pay, or any health factors.
Death toll likely higher than official number – Fauci
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders just asked Dr Anthony Fauci about the death toll from the coronavirus in the US, which now officially stands a little over 80,000.
To begin with, however, Sanders, who recently dropped out of the 2020 election race to be the Democratic nominee, said: “It is sad to say we have a president who from day one downplayed the dangers of the pandemic.”
He added that Donald Trump “told us the crisis would be over in a few months and we didn’t need to worry, he fired members of the government who wanted to move aggressively and he cut funding to the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Sanders then said that the official statistic is that 80,000 Americans have died, but there are some leading epidemiologists who believe the real death toll is higher, perhaps even 50% higher, what did Fauci think of that, he asked.
Fauci said: “I’m not sure if it’s going to be 50% higher, but most of us feel the number of deaths are likely to be higher.”
Fauci said that especially in New York City [where the official death toll has surpassed 20,000] there may have been people who died at home who died of Covid-19 but were not counted as Covid deaths.
“The number is almost certainly higher,” Fauci said.
Fauci warns of 'serious' consequences in any rush to reopen
Washington state Senator Patty Murray just said to Anthony Fauci: “You’ve warned of needless suffering and death but the president is giving the opposite message” and asked him for his view on reopening the US.
Fauci said: “What we have worked out is a guideline framework for how you safely open America again ... I get concerned if you have a situation where you are not seeing gradual, over 14-day, decrease [in new cases of coronavirus].”
If such a decrease is seen, that may allow an early phase of gradual reopening, Fauci said, with further phases and “checkpoints” on elements such as hospital capacity, testing and other measures to deal with a subsequent new outbreak.
“If places jump over those checkpoints and prematurely open up without being able to respond, we will start to see little spikes” that could turn into larger outbreaks, Fauci warned.
Murray asked: “So if they don’t go by the guidelines consequences could be dire?”
Fauci said: “The consequences could be serious.”
Senate health committee chairman, Lamar Alexander, just asked public health expert Anthony Fauci: “Let’s look down the road three months”, what should happen when there will be about 5,000 campuses across the country and 20,000 public schools waiting to welcome millions of students back in August?
Fauci: “I would have to be very realistic...in this case the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students would be a bit of a bridge too far.”
Fauci said that remdesivir, the drug recently given emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), showed some efficacy but it was “modest” and used in patients severely ill in hospital.
So Fauci has no definitive solution for students and teachers eager to get back to a normal education system.
Even as Donald Trump urges getting people back to work and reopening the economy, analysis shows thousands of people are getting sick from Covid-19 on the job.
Recent figures show a surge of infections in meatpacking and poultry-processing plants, The Associated Press reports.
There’s been a surge of new cases among construction workers in Austin, Texas, where that sector recently returned to work.
The White House has proved vulnerable, with staff testing positive.
The developments underscore the high stakes for communities nationwide as they gradually loosen restrictions on business.
“The people who are getting sick right now are generally people who are working,” Dr. Mark Escott, a regional health official, told Austin’s city council. “That risk is going to increase the more people are working.”
There are plenty of new infections outside the workplace in nursing homes, and among retired and unemployed people, particularly in densely populated places such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and urban parts of New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Yet of the 15 US counties with the highest per-capita infection rates between April 28 and May 5, all are homes to meatpacking and poultry-processing plants or state prisons, according to data compiled by the AP.
The county with the highest per-capita rate was Tennessee’s Trousdale County, where nearly 1,300 inmates and 50 staffers recently tested positive at the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.
The No. 2 county on AP’s list is Nobles County in Minnesota, which now has about 1,100 cases, compared to two in mid-April. There and Nebraska’s Dakota County and Indiana’s Cass County are home to huge meat-processing industries.
Also hard hit by recent infections are counties in Virginia, Delaware and Georgia where poultry-processing plants are located.
In New York, the hardest-hit state during most of the pandemic, people staying at home are still getting sick.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, of 2,578 new cases between May 4 and May 6, more than 40% were people living in long-term care facilities.
And across the country many health workers were among the earliest Americans to test positive. They continue to be infected in large numbers.
CDC director Robert Redfield says about the US’s coronavirus crisis: “We are not out of the woods yet.”
He said the CDC has conducted a state by state examination of testing capacity. “We’re working directly with the states’ public health leaders” to find out what they’re doing and what they need, Redfield said.
This may be an allusion to reports last week that after the Trump administration shelved the CDC’s big report on recommendations for how to reopen the US safely, especially in relation to businesses and schools, that CDC officials were prepared to skirt Washington and take their advice direct to state governors and their public health departments - presumably those that were willing to listen, at least.
“Rapid, extensive, widely available and timely testing is essential,” Redfield said.
Fauci hopes successful results from vaccine trials in coming months
Senator: 'Families across the country are counting on us for the truth'
Patty Murray, Democratic Senator of Washington State, has opened with a blistering statement. She said that families across America are counting on Congress to tell them the truth about coronavirus.
“It’s clear they will not get it from President Trump. Lives are at stake. The president is not telling the truth,” she said
She called on Congress to “dig into the facts” of what went wrong in the handling of the coronavirus crisis in the US.
She called the federal government’s response “a disaster on its own”, citing “delay, allowing inaccurate antibody tests to flood the market” as well as “political interference’ in the procurement of medical equipment, and an administration that “promoted dangerous, unproven treatments” - by which she probably means the president touting hydroxychloroquine as a “miracle” treatment and then musing at a White House press briefing whether taking disinfectant internally could be looked at by his health experts as a treatment - which disinfectant manufacturers promptly warned is potentially deadly.
She then added that the CDC spent weeks preparing guidance for safely reopening the county “and the Trump administration tossed it in the trash can for being ‘too prescriptive’.
“Since the committee last heard from these witnesses on March 13 we have seen over 80,000 deaths nationally...still Trump continues to ignore the facts and the experts who say we are nowhere near where we need to be to safely reopen,” she said.
'We underestimated this virus'
The hearing has begun. Committee chairman Senator Lamar Alexander is chairing the hearing remotely, from home in Tennessee, and has just popped up on our screens.
Weirdly, the screen just flashed to Bernie Sanders trying to jam earphones into his ears in order, like the rest of us, to tune in remotely. There are no members of the public permitted in the hearing room on Capitol Hill, which looks sparse and sad!
We’re awaiting Anthony Fauci’s opening statement, in expectation that he is going to double down on his stance, which splits dramatically with Donald Trump (his ultimate boss) on the pace at which the US should reopen for business and societal movements.
Fauci is expected to warn, as he emailed to the New York Times last night, that “needless suffering and death” will result if states open too soon.