Nation’s top health experts testify to Congress about coronavirus pandemic response

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top health experts faced tough questions about the rise in COVID-19 cases and test result delays during a hearing on Capitol Hill Friday.

As states across the country have started to reopen, most have seen a jump in COVID-19 infections.

Health officials said the spike is in large part due to a failure by some people to follow safety guidelines.

“There are some states that did it very well and there are some states that did not,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci again urged people to practice social distancing and to wear masks.

He especially discouraged crowds indoors.


At one point, Fauci was in a heated exchange over a question about the recent protests and whether they have affected the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“I’m not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way,” Fauci said. “I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd.”

“It’s a simple question doctor should we limit the protests? Government is obviously limiting people going to church,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked.

“I don’t know how many times I can answer that,” Fauci said. “I’m not going to opine on limiting anything.”

The Department of Health and Human Services touted the more than 59 million COVID-19 tests given out so far in the country, but lawmakers questioned why some people have faced delays of up to 12 to 16 days to get their test results.

"Would it be possible for our nation to have results for all COVID tests completed and returned within 48 and 72 hours?" Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., asked.

“It is not a benchmark we can achieve today given the demand and supply,” said HHS Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir. “It is a benchmark we can absolutely achieve moving forward.”

Another key issue discussed was getting kids back to school in a safe way.

The Trump administration is pushing for a return to the classroom.

“It’s in the public health best interest of K-12 students to get back to face to face learning,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said.

“I want them to be educated but I want them safe and that’s what this is about,” Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S. C., said.

Fauci also highlighted the progress made in developing a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Fauci said he is cautiously optimistic we will have a COVID-19 vaccine by late fall or early winter.