Fauci hopeful for a vaccine by late 2020, early 2021

The government’s top infectious disease expert said Tuesday he is cautiously optimistic that there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021, and warned that the next few weeks will be critical to tamping down coronavirus hot spots around the country.

Posted: Jun 23, 2020 1:22 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s top infectious disease expert said Tuesday he is cautiously optimistic that there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021, and warned that the next few weeks will be critical to tamping down coronavirus hot spots around the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials also said they have not been asked to slow down testing for coronavirus, an issue that became controversial after President Donald Trump said last weekend that he had asked them to do just that because it was uncovering too many infections. Trump said Wednesday that he wasn’t kidding when he said that.

“We will be doing more testing,” Fauci told a House committee.

The U.S. has tested more than 27 million people, with about 2.3 million – or 8.4% -- testing positive.

The health officials returned to Capitol Hill at a fraught moment in the nation’s pandemic response, with coronavirus cases rising in about half the states and political polarization competing for attention with public health recommendations.

“We’ve been hit badly,” said Fauci, infectious diseases chief at the National Institutes of Health. He said he was “really quite concerned” about rising community spread in some states.

“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges,” he said.

Fauci was testifying along with the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration and a Health and Human Services official.

Since Fauci’s last appearance at a high-profile hearing more than a month ago, the U.S. has begun emerging from weeks of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But it’s being done in an uneven way, with some states far less cautious than others. A trio of states with Republican governors who are bullish on reopening — Arizona, Florida and Texas — are among those seeing worrisome increases in cases.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence published an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal saying the administration’s efforts have strengthened the nation’s ability to counter the virus and should be “a cause for celebration.”

Then at Trump’s weekend rally in Tulsa, many of his supporters didn’t wear masks, which for some was an act of defiance against what they see as government intrusion. White House officials later tried to walk back Trump’s comment there on slowing down testing, suggesting it wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey said during Tuesday’s hearing that Trump’s testing comment at the rally “was an extremely reckless action, and unfortunately it continues the president’s pattern of ignoring the advice of his own public health experts.”

Trump, departing the White House for a visit to Arizona on Tuesday, played down those comments, saying under his administration the U.S. is doing more testing than any other country. Trump’s trip includes a rally at a megachurch.

Fauci has recently warned that the U.S. is still in the first wave of the pandemic and has continued to urge the American public to practice social distancing. And, in a recent ABC News interview, he said political demonstrations such as protests against racial injustice are “risky” to all involved. Asked if that applied to Trump rallies, he said it did. Fauci continues to recognize widespread testing as critical for catching clusters of COVID-19 cases before they turn into full outbreaks in a given community.

About 2.3 million Americans have been sickened in the pandemic, and some 120,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was joined by CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield, FDA chief Dr. Stephen Hahn and the head of the U.S. Public Health Service, Adm. Brett Giroir.

Giroir was tapped by the White House to oversee the expansion of coronavirus testing. But he gained notoriety after a whistleblower complaint flagged him for trying to push a malaria drug touted by Trump to treat COVID-19 without conclusive scientific evidence. The FDA has since withdrawn its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine.

“There have been a lot of unfortunate missteps in the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pallone said. “As communities across the country ease social distancing guidance and reopen their economies, it is critically important that both the administration and Congress remain focused on containing the spread of the coronavirus and providing the resources and support Americans need during this time of crisis.”

There is still no vaccine for COVID-19, and there are no treatments specifically developed for the disease, although the antiviral drug remdesivir has been shown to help some patients, as well as a steroid called dexamethasone, and plasma from patients who have recovered.

Since Fauci last testified, hospital physicians have become more skilled in treating coronavirus patients with the techniques and medications at their disposal. The U.S. continues to ramp up testing, with some 27.5 million Americans, or more than 8% of the population, tested thus far. But most communities still lack enough health workers trained in doing contact tracing, the work of identifying people who have had interactions with an infected person. That could make it more difficult to tamp down emerging outbreaks.

The Energy and Commerce Committee has oversight over drugs and vaccines, among other facets of the U.S. health care system. Committee Democrats have been harshly critical of the administration. However, not all Republicans have lined up to defend the White House. Some GOP members were growing concerned early in the year that the administration wasn’t doing enough to prepare.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1187757

Reported Deaths: 22759
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4748859369
DuPage768711196
Will65092894
Lake59589923
Kane50800717
Winnebago28351440
Madison28026455
St. Clair25497467
McHenry24336265
Champaign18115126
Peoria16906262
Sangamon16152218
McLean14621157
Tazewell13538240
Rock Island13069286
Kankakee12502189
Kendall1107786
LaSalle10810219
Macon9461185
Vermilion8568116
DeKalb8276112
Adams8006114
Williamson6800121
Whiteside5930147
Boone592671
Clinton557189
Coles520391
Grundy512563
Ogle502173
Knox5018132
Jackson461160
Effingham449469
Macoupin435279
Henry433057
Marion4262111
Livingston420677
Franklin414666
Stephenson409875
Monroe406683
Jefferson3980115
Randolph396378
Woodford367960
Morgan358876
Montgomery350068
Lee335343
Logan330953
Bureau330873
Christian330568
Fayette306452
Perry305857
Fulton285344
Iroquois277161
Jersey249646
Douglas245033
McDonough232840
Lawrence230024
Saline229847
Union218537
Shelby214034
Crawford200723
Bond191024
Cass189022
Pike169250
Clark168630
Wayne167448
Hancock167229
Warren166444
Richland163538
White160925
Jo Daviess160522
Ford158745
Washington158423
Carroll157634
Edgar154337
Moultrie149424
Clay142941
Greene137932
Johnson134712
Piatt132814
Wabash130012
Mason128641
De Witt128022
Mercer128033
Massac127233
Cumberland119218
Jasper111017
Menard10388
Marshall83915
Hamilton78815
Schuyler6775
Pulaski6696
Brown6636
Stark54122
Edwards52310
Henderson49814
Calhoun4782
Scott4491
Alexander4488
Gallatin4374
Putnam4163
Hardin34512
Pope2823
Out of IL00
Unassigned02223

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 662213

Reported Deaths: 12595
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion907061645
Lake48425878
Allen35861636
Hamilton32099397
St. Joseph29996512
Elkhart25386415
Vanderburgh21247378
Tippecanoe20024201
Johnson16349360
Porter15975270
Hendricks15825300
Clark11965181
Madison11746318
Vigo11612229
Monroe10333161
Delaware9838179
LaPorte9772196
Howard9056197
Kosciusko8562110
Bartholomew7456147
Warrick7416151
Hancock7409131
Floyd7207169
Wayne6633191
Grant6427157
Morgan6092125
Boone609088
Dubois5910111
Dearborn547467
Cass544499
Marshall5425104
Henry542393
Noble509378
Jackson464767
Shelby460690
Lawrence4184112
Gibson401281
Harrison399864
Clinton395853
Montgomery387083
DeKalb385278
Knox357485
Miami357463
Whitley349436
Huntington344476
Steuben338355
Wabash331476
Putnam330559
Ripley327161
Adams323549
Jasper316143
White297352
Jefferson294973
Daviess285396
Fayette271956
Decatur270888
Greene261280
Posey260931
Wells258275
Scott250350
Clay241444
LaGrange240870
Randolph225576
Spencer217330
Jennings215244
Washington211227
Sullivan203439
Fountain201542
Starke188151
Owen182153
Fulton178237
Jay177828
Carroll176518
Perry173235
Orange171250
Rush164822
Vermillion160542
Franklin159435
Tipton146441
Parke139316
Pike127632
Blackford120627
Pulaski106444
Newton96531
Brown95039
Benton92013
Crawford90713
Martin80114
Warren75814
Switzerland7548
Union67110
Ohio53711
Unassigned0433