A US public health chief told Congress Tuesday that the coronavirus “has brought this nation to its knees” as the United States struggles with more than 2.3 million confirmed cases and more than 121,000 deaths so far.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said at a hearing in Washington that basic US public health capabilities. USA They had been very poorly funded for a long time and needed urgent investment.
“We have all done the best we can do to combat this virus and the reality is that it has brought this nation to its knees,” Redfield told the House energy and trade committee.
“We are probably going to spend $ 7bn for a little virus,” he added.
He said the United States had “used the capacity we have” to deal with the pandemic, but that “the critics will be there.”
The Trump administration has come under fire for a slow and shaky early response to the coronavirus as it spread from Asia and Europe to the US. USA In the early 2020s, especially since Donald Trump repeatedly downplayed the risk of Covid-19 and the damage that would come to hit the United States.
Redfield said the United States at the local, state and federal levels have chronically invested in “basic public health capabilities,” including data analysis, “laboratory resilience,” the health workforce. public, emergency response capabilities and “our global health security around the world,” adding that “now is the time” to increase spending.
Earlier in the hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading infectious disease expert. The US testified that the country will conduct more tests of Covid-19, not less, hours after the president insisted he was serious when he said at a rally over the weekend that he had called for tests to slow down in the United States. .
Coronavirus cases have continued to increase in about half of the US states. But Trump said at the demonstration in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that increased evidence was causing the US to USA It looked bad and he had asked the staff to slow down. His press secretary later said the comments were “joking,” but the president endorsed them on Tuesday and told reporters that the comments were not a joke.
However, in remarks to the Congressional committee hours later, Fauci said: “I know for sure that, to the best of my knowledge, none of us have been told to slow down the speed of testing. That is just a fact. In fact, we will do more testing. ”
Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, spoke to the committee alongside Redfield; the head of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn; and a senior official from the Department of Health and Human Services, Brett Giroir.
Fauci last testified before Congress in May, when the states were still mostly closed. Since then, there have been staggered reopens across the country, and several states are seeing a worrying increase in cases.
He said that the coronavirus status in the United States was generally a “mixed bag”, in part due to the enormous size and diversity of the country.
He said some areas, such as New York City, had done well to monitor cases following government guidelines for reopening, but said the “disturbing increase” in infections in other parts of the country was very concerning.
“The next two weeks will be critical in addressing those waves we are seeing,” Fauci said, specifically citing the increase in cases in Florida, Arizona and Texas.
Concerns shared by top health leaders at the hearing contradicted Trump’s continued efforts to minimize the effects of Covid-19.
At least eight Trump campaign employees tested positive for Covid-19 in Tulsa, where Trump said at a campaign rally that he had asked administration officials to slow down the speed of testing because too many positive cases are popping up.
After figures from the administration, including White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, suggested that the comments were not serious or a joke, Trump said Tuesday: “I never joke.”
“Evidence is a double-edged sword,” Trump told reporters. “In one way, it shows you have cases and in another way you find out where the cases are and you do a good job.”
When individually asked at the congressional hearing if the president had asked America’s health leaders to slow down the testing, they all replied “no.”
At the time of the May hearing, Fauci was one of many speakers who testified of a video at home. This time, the speakers were in person for this audience.
In the chamber, the men sat next to their plates with wipes with sanitizing wipes and sanitizing hand pumps. While committee members and speakers are often crowded, people sat at a distance, wearing masks, which they took off to speak.
Fauci told the committee that he was “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year or early 2021.
The group also expressed concern about what could happen if coronavirus cases remain high when the flu season arrives in the fall.
In a prepared statement, experts said such a collision could once again be a burden on the country’s health system.
“If there is Covid-19 and flu activity at the same time, this could place a tremendous burden on the health system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and the safety of health workers, “the statement said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.