On Tuesday, top government public-health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, and Assistant HHS Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, testified before the Senate for the first time since President Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency on March 13.
In the intervening two months, the Trump administration has failed on just about every metric, leading the world in both cases and deaths — even though, as Dr. Fauci told Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), “the number [of deaths] is likely higher” than official statistics say.
Far from the rosy picture Trump painted when he said the U.S. has “met the moment” and “prevailed” over the challenges necessary to begin reopening the country, the hearing underscored just how badly his administration has failed.
Here are the key takeaways you need to know:
- The U.S. may not be ready to fully reopen for months. Dr. Fauci told Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that, even with an accelerated timeline, “The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far.” (That position is a far cry from Trump, who’s reportedly been pushing governors to reopen schools for at least two weeks.) Dr. Fauci later stressed that whether individual locations would be able to reopen would largely come down to the state of testing in that particular locality. That’s hardly reassuring, given that…
- The U.S. is frighteningly behind on testing. Dr. Giroir told the committee that the federal government is working to rapidly expand testing, predicting that, by September, it will be possible to test 40 to 50 million people per month. That works out to 1.3 to 1.7 million tests per day, or roughly one-third of the 5 million daily tests Trump promised just two weeks ago. The U.S. is currently testing fewer than 300,000 per day, placing us 11th in the world in per-capita testing — and that’s only because countries like South Korea have been able to ramp testing down as their outbreaks subside. As Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) said, “our testing record [is] nothing to celebrate whatsoever.” Unless something changes very soon, that means that…
- Trump’s rush to reopen the economy could have devastating consequences. Prior to the hearing, Dr. Fauci told journalists he hoped to convey that prematurely reopening the country could cause “needless suffering and death.” During the hearing, Dr. Fauci reiterated that concern, telling Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “If you do not do an adequate response, we will have the deleterious consequence of more infections and more death.” Not only that, he told Bob Casey (D-PA) that “there is a real risk that [reopening early] will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to economic recovery.”
Trump’s rush to reopen the country is putting the United States on a dangerous path. Not only do we currently have the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, but reopening prematurely will likely make it even worse. It’s time for the president to follow the American people’s lead and listen to the public-health experts rather than push for changes that could put tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans at additional risk.