May 12, 2020 9:01 PM

🎥 Kansas Senator hears grim news from Coronavirus Task Force

Posted May 12, 2020 9:01 PM
First ever U.S. Senate hearing with witnesses and chairman appearing via video conference. Those in attendance practice social distancing on Tuesday moring. The public is not in attendance at the hearing-image courtesy CSPAN
First ever U.S. Senate hearing with witnesses and chairman appearing via video conference. Those in attendance practice social distancing on Tuesday moring. The public is not in attendance at the hearing-image courtesy CSPAN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned bluntly Tuesday of “really serious” consequences of suffering, death and deeper economic damage if state and local officials lift stay-at-home orders too quickly, even as President Donald Trump pushes them to act to right a free-falling economy.

Click here to watch a replay the Senate hearing.

Fauci’s testimony before a Senate committee that included Kansas Senator Pat Roberts came as more than two dozen states have begun to lift their lockdowns as a first step toward economic recovery.

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts wore gloves and  participated in Tuesday's first ever Senate hearing via video conference. Roberts referred to the dramatic number of virus patients identified in his hometown of Dodge City. -image courtesy CSPAN
Kansas Senator Pat Roberts wore gloves and  participated in Tuesday's first ever Senate hearing via video conference. Roberts referred to the dramatic number of virus patients identified in his hometown of Dodge City. -image courtesy CSPAN

Underscoring the seriousness of the pandemic that has reached Congress and the White House, Fauci and other experts testified by video from their homes. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chaired the hearing by video from the study in his cabin in Tennessee, though several members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee did attend at the Capitol.

Dr. Anthony Fauci during Tuesday's video conference before the U.S. Senate committee
Dr. Anthony Fauci during Tuesday's video conference before the U.S. Senate committee

Fauci and other health officials stressed that pandemic danger persists, even as testing increases and work toward a vaccine and treatments continues.

More COVID-19 infections are inevitable as people again start gathering, but how prepared communities are to stamp out those sparks will determine how bad the rebound is, Fauci told the senators.

“There is no doubt, even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation you will see some cases appear,” Fauci said.

And if there is a rush to reopen without following guidelines, “my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said. “The consequences could be really serious.”

In fact, he said opening too soon “could turn the clock back,” and that not only would cause “some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery.”

Fauci was among the health experts testifying Tuesday to the Senate panel, as Trump has been praising states that are reopening after the prolonged lockdown aimed at controlling the virus’s spread.

Committee chairman Alexander said as the hearing opened that “what our country has done so far in testing is impressive, but not nearly enough.”

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt watched the opening of the hearing Tuesday morning-image CSPAN
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt watched the opening of the hearing Tuesday morning-image CSPAN

Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 4.2 million people and killed over 287,000 — more than 80,000 in U.S. alone. Asked if the U.S. mortality count was correct, Fauci said, “the number is likely higher. I don’t know exactly what percent higher but almost certainly it’s higher.”

Fauci, a member of the coronavirus task force charged with shaping the response to COVID-19, testified via video conference after self-quarantining as a White House staffer tested positive for the virus.

With the U.S. economy in free-fall and more than 30 million people unemployed, Trump has been anxious to reopen states for business.

A recent Associated Press review determined that 17 states did not meet a key White House benchmark for loosening restrictions — a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. Yet many of those have begun to reopen or are about to do so, including Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

Of the 33 states that have had a 14-day downward trajectory of either cases or positive test rates, 25 are partially opened or moving to reopen within days, the AP analysis found. Other states that have not seen a 14-day decline, remain closed despite meeting some benchmarks.

Besides Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, the other experts include FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — both in self-quarantine—and Adm. Brett Giroir, the coronavirus “testing czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The event Tuesday got underway in the committee’s storied hearing room, but that’s about all that remained of the pre-pandemic way of conducting oversight. The senators running the event, Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, were heads on video screens, with an array of personal items in the background as they isolated back home.

A few senators, such as Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, personally attended the session in the hearing room. They wore masks, as did an array of aides buzzing behind them.

The health committee hearing offers a very different setting from the White House coronavirus task force briefings the administration witnesses have all participated in. Most significantly, Trump did not control the agenda.

Eyeing the November elections, the president has been urging on protesters who oppose their state governors’ stay-at-home orders, while expressing his own confidence that the coronavrius will fade away as summer advances and Americans return to work and other pursuits.

The U.S. has seen at least 1.3 million infections and nearly 81,000 confirmed deaths from the virus, the highest toll in the world by far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Separately, one expert from the World Health Organization has already warned that some countries are “driving blind” into reopening their economies without having strong systems to track new outbreaks. And three countries that do have robust tracing systems — South Korea, Germany and China — have already seen new outbreaks after lockdown rules were relaxed.

U.S. contact tracing remains a patchwork of approaches and readiness levels. States are hiring contact tracers but experts say tens of thousands will be needed across the country.

WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said Germany and South Korea have good contact tracing that hopefully can detect and stop virus clusters before they get out of control. But he said other nations — which he did not name — have not effectively employed investigators to contact people who test positive, track down their contacts and get them into quarantine before they can spread the virus.

“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “Certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months.”

Apple, Google, some U.S. states and European countries are developing contact-tracing apps that show whether someone has crossed paths with an infected person. But experts say the technology only supplements and does not replace labor-intensive human work.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, is warning Congress that if the country reopens too soon, "the consequences could be really serious.”

Click here to watch the Senate hearing that began at 9a.m. CDT and is expected to last approximately 3 hours.

Fauci is among the experts testifying to a Senate panel as its hearing opened on Tuesday. His testimony comes as President Donald Trump is pressuring states to reopen after the prolonged lock-down aimed at controlling the virus’ spread.

With the U.S. economy in free-fall and more than 30 million people unemployed, Trump wants to restart the economy. Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 4.2 million people and killed over 286,000. Some countries that have relaxed lock-down rules have seen new outbreaks.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says the government is working on several potential vaccines for COVID-19.

Click here to watch the Senate hearing that began at 9a.m. CDT and is expected to last approximately 3 hours.

Members of the U.S. Senate gather ahead of Tuesday's hearing -image courtesy CSPAN
Members of the U.S. Senate gather ahead of Tuesday's hearing -image courtesy CSPAN

“We have many candidates and hope to have many winners,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee. “In other words, it is many shots on goal.”

Despite the rapid pace of work on vaccines, Fauci was offering no guarantees. He says, “The big unknown is efficacy.”

Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is the government’s leading expert on the pandemic. He says he hopes to have a vaccine in advanced trials by late fall or early winter.

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WASHINGTON — The government’s leading infectious disease expert says he intends to warn the nation Tuesday that “needless suffering and death” will result from a rushed reopening of the economy.

Click here to watch the Senate hearing that begins 9a.m. CDT and is expected to last approximately 3 hours.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee at a hearing assessing reopening plans.

In an email to the New York Times, Fauci said his major message will concern the danger of trying to open the country.

“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci wrote. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

This puts Fauci at odds with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly urged governors to lift business closings and stay-at-home orders.

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May 12, 2020 9:01 PM
Kansas lawmakers meet online to prep for session on virus
Members of the House Taxation committee met via video conference late Tuesday afternoon

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are turning to virtual meetings to prepare for an upcoming session aimed at dealing with the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, as researchers examine the state’s wastewater to look for clues about how the virus is spreading.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr, a Kansas City-area Republican, says that the virtual meetings, which will be broadcast live on the Legislature’s YouTube channel, are now underway before the Legislature reconvenes on May 21.

“We’re going to take care of COVID-related legislation that legitimately serves the best interests of our families, our first responders and our economy,” Ryckman said.

Among the issues that committees are discussing are the allocation of federal relief funding and the Kansas Department of Labor’s dated information technology infrastructure, which has been overwhelmed by the surge in unemployment claims.