Fauci back on Capitol Hill as virus surge drives new fears

WASHINGTON (AP) – Dr Anthony Fauci returned to Capitol Hill yesterday to testify before a special House panel investigating the coronavirus pandemic. His testimony came at a time when early progress on combatting the virus seems to have been lost and uncertainty clouds the nation’s path forward.

The government’s top infectious disease expert testified alongside Head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Dr Robert Redfield and Admiral Brett Giroir, a Health and Human Services official and physician serving as the “testing czar.”

The panel, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, is divided about how to reopen schools and businesses, mirroring divisions among Americans.

A rebound of cases across the South and West has dashed hopes for a quick return to normal life. Problems with the availability and timeliness of testing continue to be reported. And the race for a vaccine, though progressing rapidly, has yet to deliver a breakthrough.

Fauci’s public message in recent days has been that Americans can’t afford a devil-may-care attitude toward COVID-19, and individuals need to double down on basic measures such as wearing masks in public, keeping their distance from others, and avoiding crowds and indoor spaces. That’s echoed by Redfield and Giroir, though they are far less prominent.

Fauci’s dogged persistence has drawn the ire of some of United States (US) President Donald Trump’s supporters and prompted a new round of calls for his firing.

But the veteran of battles against AIDS and Ebola has stuck to his message, while carefully avoiding open confrontations with the Trump White House.

In an interview with the AP earlier this week, Fauci said he was “disturbed” by the flat-out opposition in parts of the country to wearing masks as a public health protective measure.

“There are certain fundamentals,” he said, “the staples of what you need to do … one is universal wearing of masks.”