WASHINGTON — Health experts said we need to have enough testing and contact tracing abilities in place in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic during testimony to a House subcommittee Wednesday.
The testimony was supposed to include National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci but he was blocked from testifying by the White House.
"This is a bipartisan panel,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) said. “Dr. Fauci has appeared before our subcommittee dozens of times…Yet now, the White House said no."
Testimony continued without Dr. Fauci and focused on how to safely reopen the economy while not causing an explosion of new cases.
"It is inevitable there will be future outbreaks,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “It's not inevitable that we will be so under prepared."
Dr. Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said coronavirus testing, contact tracing and sufficient health care services are needed to fight the pandemic.
"Without continued vigilance, we will again create the conditions that led to us being the worst affected country in the world,” Rivers said.
Concerns about safely reopening the economy were at the center of the testimony.
"Is it irresponsible to open the economy without adequate testing?" Rep. DeLauro asked.
"I think there's an enormous need to balance public health with the economic pressures,” Rivers said. “We still need to be increasing our capacities to do diagnostic testing and to do contact tracing. The window we have to implement those interventions is still open and so I don't think it's either or."
“I think there’s a balance,” Frieden said. “We need to reopen so we can start important medical care. We need to reopen our economy but we need to do that in a way that is careful and doesn’t risk an explosion of cases that sends us back into our homes.”
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