Fauci hopeful for a vaccine by late 2020, early 2021
The U.S. has tested more than 27 million people, with about 2.3 million – or 8.4% -- testing positive.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s top infectious disease expert said Tuesday he is cautiously optimistic that there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021, and warned that the next few weeks will be critical to tamping down coronavirus hot spots around the country.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials also said they have not been asked to slow down testing for coronavirus, an issue that became controversial after President Donald Trump said last weekend that he had asked them to do just that because it was uncovering too many infections. Trump said Wednesday that he wasn’t kidding when he said that.
“We will be doing more testing,” Fauci told a House committee.
The U.S. has tested more than 27 million people, with about 2.3 million – or 8.4% — testing positive.
The health officials returned to Capitol Hill at a fraught moment in the nation’s pandemic response, with coronavirus cases rising in about half the states and political polarization competing for attention with public health recommendations.
“We’ve been hit badly,” said Fauci, infectious diseases chief at the National Institutes of Health. He said he was “really quite concerned” about rising community spread in some states.
“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges,” he said.
Fauci was testifying along with the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration and a Health and Human Services official.
Since Fauci’s last appearance at a high-profile hearing more than a month ago, the U.S. has begun emerging from weeks of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But it’s being done in an uneven way, with some states far less cautious than others. A trio of states with Republican governors who are bullish on reopening — Arizona, Florida and Texas — are among those seeing worrisome increases in cases.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence published an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal saying the administration’s efforts have strengthened the nation’s ability to counter the virus and should be “a cause for celebration.”
Then at Trump’s weekend rally in Tulsa, many of his supporters didn’t wear masks, which for some was an act of defiance against what they see as government intrusion. White House officials later tried to walk back Trump’s comment there on slowing down testing, suggesting it wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey said during Tuesday’s hearing that Trump’s testing comment at the rally “was an extremely reckless action, and unfortunately it continues the president’s pattern of ignoring the advice of his own public health experts.”
Trump, departing the White House for a visit to Arizona on Tuesday, played down those comments, saying under his administration the U.S. is doing more testing than any other country. Trump’s trip includes a rally at a megachurch.
Fauci has recently warned that the U.S. is still in the first wave of the pandemic and has continued to urge the American public to practice social distancing. And, in a recent ABC News interview, he said political demonstrations such as protests against racial injustice are “risky” to all involved. Asked if that applied to Trump rallies, he said it did. Fauci continues to recognize widespread testing as critical for catching clusters of COVID-19 cases before they turn into full outbreaks in a given community.
About 2.3 million Americans have been sickened in the pandemic, and some 120,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.