Three members of the Coronavirus Task Force appeared before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for a July 31 hearing, “The Urgent Need for a National Plan to Contain the Coronavirus.”
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, MD; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, MD; and Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, described ongoing efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Subcommittee Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.), said in his opening statement that he wanted to hear what steps needed to be taken to stop the unnecessary deaths of more Americans.
“To improve our response, we need to identify and correct past failures,” including in testing, Chairman Clyburn said.
Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) cited administration documents, guidance, and the development of the public-private partnership Operation Warp Speed as evidence that the administration is implementing a plan to combat the coronavirus.
Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) reminded members that scientific breakthroughs take time and sustained investment. In reflecting on the significant progress in cancer immunotherapy, Foster noted that “equally great were the decades of federally funded research and the researchers who made those clinical breakthroughs possible, and also, frankly, that some of the credit goes to the Democratic and Republican members of Congress who resisted the proposals for massive budget cuts to science.”
Fauci recognized Congress for many years of bipartisan support for biomedical research, citing the importance of past investments in research leading to the knowledge researchers have today about monoclonal antibodies and antivirals that are being used to combat SARS-CoV-2.
He also outlined the National Institute of Health’s coronavirus strategic plan to improve fundamental knowledge of the virus, characterize and test therapies, and develop a safe and effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Fauci was cautiously optimistic that a vaccine will be available by the end of 2020.
Redfield described the pandemic as the most complex public health response facing the nation in over 100 years and said that public health officials are continuing to learn about and adapt to the virus to protect Americans. He also highlighted the decades-long underinvestment in the nation’s public health infrastructure as a detriment to the nation’s timely response to the pandemic.
Giroir said that the United States has performed over 59 million COVID-19 tests, now averaging over 820,000 tests per day. Both Giroir and Redfield emphasized the importance of good hand hygiene, physical distancing, and mask-wearing to slow the spread of the pandemic.
In advance of the hearing, AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Karen Fisher, JD, sent a July 29 letter thanking subcommittee Chairman Clyburn and Ranking Member Scalise for convening the hearing to address a national plan to contain the pandemic and highlighting the AAMC blueprint, The Way Forward on COVID-19: A Road Map to Reset the Nation’s Approach to the Pandemic, which was released on July 29. Chairman Clyburn submitted the letter for the record. The blueprint contains 11 evidence-based actions to establish a comprehensive, coordinated plan to respond to the pandemic including near- and long-term actions to realign and better coordinate the nation’s response to the coronavirus.