Health officials warn U.S. senators of possible COVID-19 resurgence, ‘suffering and death’

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci told U.S. senators on May 12 that the country could see a resurgence in COVID-19 infections if it doesn’t adequately prepare. 

Fauci, along with other top health officials, spoke with senators via video at a hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. They said the country does not yet have control over the pandemic and could see another surge in cases if it moves too quickly to reopen the economy. 

Fauci told the committee that not following guidelines to reopen the country amid coronavirus may lead to “some suffering and death.”

“You can almost turn the clock back, rather than going forward,” he said. “That is my main concern.”

Some senators responded to Fauci’s warnings with frustration, unease, and a lot of questions. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it was infuriating that Fauci was now saying it could be dangerous to reopen states too early, hours after President Donald Trump said the U.S. has “prevailed” over coronavirus testing. Murphy also said the Trump administration hasn’t issued detailed guidance for reopening the states.

“You work for a president who is frankly undermining our efforts to comply with the guidance that you have given us,” Murphy said. “Then, the guidance you have provided is criminally vague.”

Fauci also reiterated that there will likely be a second wave of infections in the fall but said the U.S. will be more prepared for it. 

“I hope that if we do have the threat of a second wave, we will be able to deal with it very effectively, to prevent it from becoming an outbreak not only worse than now but much, much less,” Fauci said.

For schools to even consider starting up classes in the fall, Fauci said there needs to be more widespread testing and good health practices, like social distancing.  

When asked by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) if there will be a vaccine ready by the time fall classes typically begin, Dr. Fauci reiterated what he said in January that the soonest there could be a vaccine would be in early 2021

He said there are at least eight COVID-19 vaccines in development, and one is officially in a phase 1 clinical trial. If the vaccine continues to be successful, it would enter phase 2 in the early spring or later in the summer, and researchers would know if it is a successful candidate by late fall or early winter. 

Sources: New York Times, USA Today, NBC News

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