By JOHN PARKINSON and ANNE FLAHERTY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, is testifying on Capitol Hill Friday. His appearance comes amid mounting scrutiny into his strained relationship with President Donald Trump.
Fauci, who last testified before Congress on June 30, is being joined during a hybrid in-person/remote hearing by two other leading officials from the White House Coronavirus Task Force: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, and the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Adm. Brett Giroir.
The hearing comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases keep appearing at a worrisome pace. Cases rose above 60,000 on Wednesday — the highest daily tally in more than two months — when more than 1,400 Americans died from the virus.
Democrats say they intend to examine the “urgent need for a national comprehensive plan” to address the pandemic, according to a news release sent by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which is chaired by House Majority Whip James Clyburn.
With public support for his response to the pandemic sinking, Trump has recently worked to discredit Fauci, insisting he’s “made mistakes” throughout the crisis. Nevertheless, the president insists he gets along fine with Fauci and likes him personally.
Following weeks of questions about their relationship, Fauci joined Trump Thursday at the American Red Cross headquarters — the first time they met in person since June 2 — for a roundtable to raise awareness of the importance of donating plasma.
“Everybody is doing a good job. Everybody is working very hard,” Trump said.
“When we talk about what is going on in this country and the challenge we’re facing, we often say that it is something where we are all in it together, and we all have to pull together,” Fauci said.
The hearing is the first since the CDC released new guidelines on schools. Earlier this month, the White House blocked Redfield from testifying in the House, with a senior administration official telling reporters on condition of anonymity: “We need our doctors focused on the pandemic response.”
Since then, the CDC has revised its guidelines on schools, which prioritize the argument that kids should return to the classroom because of mental health needs and the reduced likelihood of getting seriously ill. It’s likely lawmakers will demand to know if Redfield was pressured politically to refocus the guidelines.
Research shows kids are significantly less likely to get seriously ill from the novel coronavirus, although the risk isn’t zero and the concern is that they can infect others without ever exhibiting symptoms. And while there is some research that younger children could be less infectious than teens and adults, those findings are typically in countries with lower transmission rates than the U.S.
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