Minus Fauci, House panel searches for next steps on virus

With the White House refusing to allow Dr. Anthony Fauci to testify before a House spending panel which focuses on medical matters, lawmakers were told Wednesday by disease experts that the U.S. government and private sector must engage in more substantive measures to restrain the virus outbreak.

"The very best way to get our economy back is to control the virus," said Dr. Tom Frieden, who headed the Centers for Disease Control during the Obama Administration.

"Good public health is good business," Frieden said before a panel of the House Appropriations Committee, as he bluntly reinforced the gravity of the Coronavirus situation.

"In my 30 years in global public health, I've never seen anything like this," Frieden said to a small group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

While Frieden is certainly an expert, the absence of Dr. Fauci loomed over the hearing, and was noted by the top member of each party.

"I think it would have been good testimony, useful to this committee," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).

"The White House said no, leaving no doubt it just frightened of oversight," said Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-CT), the chair of the spending panel.

At the White House, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said there was a specific reason why Fauci was not allowed to testify.

"We don’t have time in the middle of a pandemic for publicity stunts,” McEnany said, as she said Fauci would take questions from Democrats in the Senate, but not Democrats in the House.

Democrats had said much the same about the White House refusing to allow Fauci to testify.

"These partisan games in the middle of a pandemic are the worst of politics, and they should alarm every American," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Asked a day earlier why he wouldn't let Fauci testify before House members, the President made clear it was for one simple reason.

"Because the House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters," the President said.

"But Dr. Fauci will be testifying in front of the Senate, and he looks forward to doing that," even though Mr. Trump did not mention there are also Democrats on that panel.

The Senate Health committee will hold a hearing next Tuesday on the Coronavirus, as Fauci will join the head of the CDC and FDA for questions on the U.S. response.

As for how Americans should look at the current situation, former CDC Frieden made the following points in his testimony:

1) The US needs widespread testing for the virus

2) Isolate those who test positive

3) Use contact tracing to warn others

4) Quarantine those contacts

5) Find the balance in a re-opening

6) Protect health care workers

7) Better protections in nursing homes

8) Government and private sector must join on testing and vaccine

9) Must insure non-COVID health issues are not ignored

Along with Frieden, Dr. Caitlin Rivers of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Public School of Health said testing needs widespread improvement.

Currently, Rivers aid the U.S. is conducting about 1.6 million tests a week - but she estimated about 3.5 million are needed, and many more in the months ahead.

“We urgently need a national plan for how we will close that gap,” Rivers told lawmakers.

Jamie Dupree, CMG Washington News Bureau

Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau