- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The government’s disease-fighters told Americans Tuesday to wear masks and take “personal responsibility” for stamping out the pandemic, saying the nation is heading in the wrong direction as hospitalizations rise in a dozen states and Arizona sees more deaths per day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads infectious-disease research at the National Institutes of Health, said he is worried things will spiral out of control if Americans continue to flout federal guidelines, estimating the U.S. could see 100,000 cases per day instead of the 40,000 it is recording now.

“There is a gonna be a lot of hurt if that does not stop,” Dr. Fauci told the Senate Health Committee. “I’m very concerned because it could get very bad.”

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said an ongoing surge in the Sun Belt is due in part to increased testing but also the result of community transmission and outbreaks at nursing homes and work sites.

“It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings,” Dr. Redfield told the Senate Health Committee. “Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society — the millennials and Generation Zs. I ask those that are listening to spread the word.”

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said President Trump, who hasn’t used the bully pulpit to encourage mask-wearing, should lead the way by wearing a face coverage at least once in a while.

“The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his lead,” the Tennessee Republican said.

A Goldman Sachs analysis released Tuesday said a national mask mandate would slow transmission enough to replace “renewed lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from [gross domestic product].”

Dr. Redfield also said the CDC is disappointed with airlines that have decided to fill their planes to capacity in violation of social-distancing rules that mandate 6 feet of physical separation. He said the agency is reviewing the situation.

“We don’t think it’s the right message, as you pointed out,” Dr. Redfield told Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, who blasted the airlines.

Members of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force testified as the European Union decided to extend its ban on American travelers, while opening its borders to visitors from 14 other countries, including Canada.

The U.S. is recording tens of thousands of new infections per day, as states like Florida, Texas and California report a summertime surge amid their attempts to reopen businesses and institutions.

The rate of those testing positive is increasing in hotspots, leading experts to worry the disease is rampant.

The nationwide death toll, meanwhile, has reached 126,000.

“Despite what President Trump says, this pandemic is not fading — far from it,” Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, said.

Governors in over a dozen states have been forced to pause reopening plans or close bars to try and reverse concerning trends on the horizons. States like New York and New Jersey are rethinking plans to allow indoor dining again, citing bad experiences in other states and their desire to avoid another crisis after getting slammed early on.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said bars appear to be a huge problem in areas that are seeing spikes.

“Bars — really not good. Really not good. Congregation in a bar, inside, is bad news,” Dr. Fauci said.

He said governmental safety recommendations should be seen as a means for getting back to normal, rather than top-down directives.

“We shouldn’t look at the public safety health measures as an impediment to opening up. We should look at them as a vehicle to opening up,” Dr. Fauci said.

Officials are pleading with Americans to take precautions as scientists develop a vaccine, so life can get back to normal.

Dr. Fauci said there is “no guarantee” an effective vaccine will be developed, but he’s cautiously optimistic that doses will be available by early next year.

In the meantime, Mr. Alexander said it will be critical to help schools and colleges looking to reopen this fall.

“The question before the country today is not about whether to go back to school or college or child care or work, but how to do it safely,” he said. “Even though COVID-19 has not, in general, hurt young children and college-age students nearly as much as older or more vulnerable Americans, there is some health risk. But in my view, the greater risk is not going back to school.”

Dr. Fauci said the ability to open specific schools may depend on the situation in each district.

“If we adhere to guidelines about physical distancing, use of masks, that will help keep the level of infection in the community down,” he said. “That will make it easier to get children back to school.”

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said there is no evidence that schools fuel the spread of the coronavirus. In lengthy remarks, he railed against “central planning” and “political correctness” in evaluating and responding to the virus.

“All I hear from you Dr. Fauci is, ‘We can’t do this, we can’t do that,’ ” Mr. Paul said.

Dr. Fauci said he feels “very strongly” they have to get children back into school, and explained that experts are forced to offer recommendations based on limited data. He said he isn’t telling sports leagues they cannot play, but rather outlining facts about the virus before player associations and others decide whether to proceed.

“Thank you, we just need more optimism,” Mr. Paul said.

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