Senator Hassan’s Questioning Comes as the U.S. Continues to See Spike in New Cases While Europe’s Cases Largely Decline
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan today questioned Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about factors driving a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S., protections for nursing home residents and staff, and guidance on school reopening, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. This hearing is the first time in over a month that Dr. Fauci and other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force have appeared before the Senate.
To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.
Senator Hassan asked Dr. Fauci what factors are driving the difference between Europe’s declining daily COVID-19 case count and the rapid increase in cases in the United States. Senator Hassan cited the chart below, stating, “the disparity is eye popping.”
Dr. Fauci agreed with Senator Hassan that “masks play a role,” and also discussed how other nations fully shut down in order to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, whereas shutdown policies across the U.S. varied greatly.
“When we shut down as a nation, in reality only about 50% of the nation shut down with regards to other things that were allowed. In many of the European countries, 90-95 percent of all activities were shut down,” said Dr. Fauci.
Senator Hassan also pressed Dr. Redfield on what the administration is doing to track how nursing homes and long-term care facilities are following best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Forty-three percent of the deaths in this country have been in nursing homes or in long-term care facilities. In my state of New Hampshire, 80 percent of our deaths are attributed to residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities,” said Senator Hassan. “In mid-May the White House urged states to complete COVID-19 testing on every nursing home worker and resident within 14 days. A month and a half later, that still has not happened. CDC has since put out different guidance on nursing home testing, calling for a baseline test for residents and weekly testing for nursing home workers.”
Senator Hassan reiterated the importance of the CDC working to support nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and also pushed the administration to do more to ensure that these facilities have the personal protective equipment that they need. “We are still hearing [that these facilities] are not getting usable personal protective equipment all the time either,” said Senator Hassan.
Senator Hassan also urged the CDC to issue specific guidance and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on school reopening, and what should happen if, for example, a school reopens and a student or teacher tests positive.
Today’s hearing is part of Senator Hassan’s ongoing efforts to push the administration to strengthen its COVID-19 response efforts. In May, Senator Hassan questioned Dr. Fauci about what testing capacity is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the country and in nursing homes in particular, as well as what is needed to mass produce and distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Senator Hassan also recently led her colleagues in calling for answers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about nursing home and long-term care facility access to personal protective equipment following reports that FEMA is shipping insufficient and defective personal protective equipment to these facilities. Additionally, Senator Hassan has repeatedly called on administration officials to improve the procurement and distribution of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, which is maintained by the federal government to rapidly distribute personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies during public health emergencies.