Health officials from the Trump administration told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the U.S. will be able to meet its coronavirus (COVID-19) testing goals for the next two months and that there may be an effective vaccine to combat the disease by the end of this year.
Many of the Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) that held the hearing did not appear to welcome the news.
The Trump administration officials testified during a coronavirus hearing focused on getting back to work and school after the United States shut down to stem the spread of the lethal and highly contagious disease.
Democrats keep moving the goal posts for what is needed to resuscitate the U.S. During the hearing, the top Democrat on the panel — Sen. Pat Murray from Washington — indicated that there must be free tests and vaccines for every American before states can safely reopen.
For the most part, the witnesses and the lawmakers discussed America’s testing capacity and the development of a vaccine and treatments to combat the viral outbreak.
Democrats on the HELP committee were dissatisfied with what the health officials said on that front, even though it was fairly good news.
The vast majority of them seized every opportunity to blame President Donald Trump for the coronavirus tragedy that has befallen this nation and lambast his administration’s response to the pandemic.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), testified:
We have established the targets with the states of over 12 million tests over the next four weeks. We think those targets are going to be good in May and June.
But as [White House Coronavirus Task Force member] Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said, we really have to be evidence-based. We expect those targets to go up as we progressively open … and certainly, those numbers will need to go up significantly again in the fall when we potentially have influenza circulating with with COVID.
Dr. Giroir stressed that it is difficult to make testing needs predictions for every state beyond June because the targets may need to change to reflect the conditions on the ground.
Still, Sen. Murray complained that the Trump administration is unable to see into the future and say how many tests each state will need beyond June.
The admiral also revealed that the Trump administration will be able to perform 40 to 50 million tests a month by September. That means the U.S. will be able to perform about 1.3 to 1.7 million tests each day by the beginning of fall.
“By September, taking every aspect of development, authorization, manufacturing, and supply chain into consideration, we project that our nation will be capable of performing at least 40, 50 million test per month if needed at that time,” he told Senators.
Giroir noted that the number could be higher if pending approvals for testing technologies are authorized. He indicated that schools, universities, and businesses will likely have adequate testing capacity to reopen.
Nevertheless, the Democrats and their mainstream media allies have indicated that 40 to 50 million tests per month are not enough to get back to at least some semblance of normalcy.
Citing health experts, Forbes magazine suggested that the United States will need to conduct “500,000 to 35 million tests per day” to safely reopen.
The article came after U.S. President Donald Trump accurately indicated this week that America leads the world in coronavirus testing.
Since around mid-March, “the nation has performed more than nine million COVID-19 tests, a number far greater than any other country,” Giroir testified.
In discussing what is needed to safely reopen America, Sen. Murray went a step further, suggesting the Trump administration must “make sure testing is free, fast, and everywhere” and “produce and distribute” an effective vaccine “to everyone quickly, equitably, at no cost.”
Sen. Murray said:
One thing that’s abundantly clear, we need dramatically more testing. It is unacceptable we still don’t have a national strategic plan to make sure testing is free, fast, and everywhere.
While President Trump claimed otherwise, there is no question that an essential part of reopening our economy safely is successfully developing and distributing a vaccine for COVID-19 … [We need to] make sure that once we have a safe and effective vaccine we can produce and distribute it too everyone quickly, equitably, [and] at no cost.
She did concede that the U.S. needs to make sure there are adequate resources to deal with mental health challenges stemming from “the stress of physical isolation, loss of income, to the trauma and anxiety of patients and workers who’ve been on the frontlines.”
Although Dr. Fauci said there are “no guarantees” that there will be an effective vaccine, as tends to be the case with similar efforts, he testified that there at least eight candidates in the clinical development stage, and some of them could be available by “late fall” or “early winter.”
“One of the big unknowns is [whether] it will be effective,” he acknowledged, later adding, “I still feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a candidate that will give some degree of efficacy, hopefully, a percentage enough that will induce the kind of herd immunity that would give protection to the population at whole.”
He warned about “the possibility of negative consequences where certain vaccines can actually enhance the negative effect of the infection.”
Dr. Fauci stressed that the federal government had also launched a public-private partnership to accelerate the development of both vaccines and therapeutic interventions to combat COVID-19.
Ignoring reopening checkpoints in the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines may trigger potentially uncontrollable outbreaks that will yield preventable “suffering and death,” he warned.
Fauci also said the U.S. does not yet have the coronavirus outbreak within its borders “completely under control.”
Some U.S. statehave begun to reopen after the White House issued its guidelines. As of Tuesday night, there were over 1.3 million cases and over 82,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.