Fauci warns next two weeks ‘will be critical’ to slowing surges around U.S.

click to enlarge Dr. Anthony Fauci - PHOTO BY ANDREW PROPP FOR FOGARTY/NIH
Photo by Andrew Propp for Fogarty/NIH
Dr. Anthony Fauci
The New York Times Company

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told House lawmakers that the nation is experiencing a “disturbing surge” of coronavirus infections as states reopen too quickly and without adequate plans for testing and tracing the contacts of those infected with the virus.

In a break with President Donald Trump’s upbeat assessments of the pandemic’s trajectory in the United States, Fauci told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that while some states like New York were “doing very well” in controlling spread of the virus, the surge in other states was “very troublesome to me.”

“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states,” Fauci told the panel as he and other leaders of the White House coronavirus task force appeared together for the first time in more than a month to brief Congress.

In their testimony, the officials said they had made progress in confronting the virus, including toward a vaccine that Fauci said he was “cautiously optimistic” would be available by early next year and expanding the availability of testing in doctors’ offices by late fall. But they also made clear they did not agree with Trump, who last week claimed in an interview with Fox News that the virus would simply “fade away.”

In his opening statement, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the pandemic “the greatest public health crisis our nation and world have confronted in a century,” and warned that the outbreak would coincide with flu season later this year, straining hospitals and health workers. Getting a flu shot, he said, would be even more important this year.

The doctors were also grilled on Trump’s claim at a campaign rally Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he had asked “my people” to “slow the testing down” because increased screening was revealing more infections, making the country look bad.

Fauci contradicted the president, saying that neither he nor any other officials he knew of had been asked by the president to slow testing, and that they planned to do more testing.

Later in the hearing, Adm. Brett P. Giroir, once the administration’s testing “czar,” backed up Fauci, saying that he had not been instructed to slow testing.