Coronavirus: Trump's top expert Dr Fauci 'can't guarantee' it will be safe to vote in US election

Trump — for once — lets Dr Fauci and other scientists do the talking at Senate coronavirus hearing


Trump — for once — lets Dr Fauci and other scientists do the talking at Senate coronavirus hearing

Trump — for once — lets Dr Fauci and other scientists do the talking at Senate coronavirus hearing

Trump — for once — lets Dr Fauci and other scientists do the talking at Senate coronavirus hearing 1

As a panel of senators drilled the nation’s top scientists on Tuesday on the US government’s coronavirus response and outlook, one person was conspicuously missing from the drama: Donald Trump.

For one of the few times throughout the health crisis, the president receded into background and let scientists do the talking.

While Mr Trump earlier in the morning touted his approval ratings among Republican voters and lauded the US testing regime as the “Best in the World, by FAR,” by the time the hearing kicked off at 10 a.m. on the East Coast, he did not tweet once about it.


When Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican to vote for his impeachment, criticised the administration for misleading the public on testing data, Mr Trump held his tongue (thumbs).

When White House infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the actual death toll from Covid-19 is likely higher than the official count, contradicting past statements from the president, Mr Trump didn’t chime in.

And even when Mr Fauci suggested that scientists and pharmaceutical companies could wrap up clinical testing of coronavirus vaccines as early as the “late fall,” which would represent a monumental achievement for vaccine development and shatter Mr Fauci’s previous prediction by months, the president did not pounce on the opportunity to boast.

Mr Trump did not have any public events scheduled for Tuesday to air his thoughts on the hearing where Mr Fauci, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Health and Human Services official Admiral Brett Giroir, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn testified about how the US could safely get Americans back to work and classrooms.

The format of a congressional hearing, the first where lawmakers have publicly questioned members of the White House coronavirus task force about the pandemic, allowed the officials to answer questions without Mr Trump lurking over their shoulders, ready to put their responses through the political spin cycle.

Mr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the panel on Tuesday that “the number [of Covid-19 deaths] is likely higher” than the official count as reported by the Centre for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.


 



He also expressed concern that if states lift stay-at-home orders too quickly while failing to adhere to CDC guidelines, then “we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”

Both comments provided a stark contrast to recent pronouncements from Mr Trump, who has reportedly questioned the accuracy of the coronavirus death toll and complained to aides about the way estimates have been calculated.

While Mr Trump has not directly responded to his health advisers’ comments at the hearing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany pushed back against some of the takeaways from the testimony.

“I do want to stress as the President has stressed that we do want to reopen this country because there are consequences that run the other way when we stay closed down as a country,” Ms McEnany said in response to a question about Mr Fauci’s testimony warning against reopening parts of the US economy before states meet CDC guidelines.

Ms McEnany also responded sharply to Mr Romney’s criticism of the administration for “framing” the data on Covid-19 testing in a way that misleads the public about how effective the government’s leadership has been on that front.

Mr Romney did not mince words about the US testing regime, which he said was “nothing to celebrate whatsoever,” despite boasts from Mr Giroir that the US has now administered more tests and more tests per capita than South Korea.

“You ignored the fact that they accomplished theirs at the beginning of the outbreak while we treaded water during February and March. And as a result, by 6 March, the US had completed just 2,000 tests, whereas South Korea had conducted more than 140,000 tests,” he said before delivering this blistering assessment: “So, partially as a result of that, they have 256 deaths and we have almost 80,000 deaths.”

Ms McEnany did not address criticism of the administration’s early struggles to roll out a testing programme, but she did note that the US has roughly doubled its weekly testing capacity in recent weeks to about 300,000 tests.

“That is pretty impressive and that is a testament to the work of this administration and the hard work of the private sector,” she said.

Mr Trump still largely has the backing of his core constituency in the Republican party when it comes to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a new poll from CNN on Tuesday found.

Eighty-four per cent of Republicans trust the president’s statements about the health crisis, compared to 61 per cent who trust Mr Fauci and 72 per cent who trust the CDC.


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