WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).- The nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told lawmakers Friday on Capitol Hill that he was “cautiously optimistic” a coronavirus vaccine would be available in the coming months, as infections continue to rise at an alarming rate in the U.S.
“We hope at the time we get into the late fall and early winter, we will have in fact a vaccine that we can say will be safe and effective,” Fauci told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. “One can never guarantee the safety and effectiveness unless you do the trial, but we are cautiously optimistic.”
Fauci said a Phase 3 trial, the last phase of the vaccine approval process, recently got underway.
At the hearing’s opening, panel Chairman James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, and the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, clashed over whether the Trump administration has a national strategy to contain the coronavirus crisis.
“The administration’s approach to deferring to states, sidelining experts and rushing to reopen has prolonged this virus and led to thousands of preventable deaths,” Clyburn said. “In fact, the United States response stands out as among the worst of any country in the world.”
Scalise dismissed Clyburn’s assessment, arguing with a stack of documents in hand that the administration has indeed issued guidance to the country about how to contain the pandemic.
“These are just a few of the documents that your agencies have published to show states how to safely reopen, to show schools how to safely reopen, to show nursing homes how to care for their patients,” Scalise said to Fauci and the other government experts at the hearing.
“If all governors would have followed those guidelines, thousands more seniors in nursing homes would be alive today, if just five governors would have followed your plan that was developed by President Trump,” Scalise added.
Reopening of schools
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also testified Friday, saying it was in the “public health best interest” for K-12 schools to reopen.
He also discussed a decision by the Trump administration to direct all hospitals to send all coronavirus data to a database in Washington, bypassing the CDC. Redfield said he did not know of the decision until after it had been made.
The hearing was held as the U.S. continues to lead the world in COVID-19 fatalities, with nearly 153,000 out of the global total of more than 675,000, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.
Map of where US COVID-19 cases are increasing, decreasing
With surges in Southern, Western and Midwestern states, the U.S. also is home to a world-leading 4.5 million infections. The global total as of Friday afternoon EDT was more than 17.3 million.
A U.S. government report released Friday investigated how more than 260 people became infected with the coronavirus at a Georgia overnight camp last month. The report by the CDC and Georgia health officials said the camp took many precautions, including disinfecting and requiring staff to wear masks, but it did not make campers wear masks or ensure proper ventilation in the buildings.
Britain pulls back
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that he was delaying plans to relax lockdown measures by at least two weeks after the country reported its highest number of new COVID cases since late June.
British health officials registered 846 new cases Thursday. Matt Hancock, minister for health and social care, said a second wave of the virus was rolling across Europe and that Britain must defend against it.
British authorities added Luxembourg to the country’s quarantine list, meaning travelers from there must isolate for 14 days after entering Britain. Spain, which had been dropped from the list, has been reinstated, and other countries may be added.
A small study published Thursday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics said young children carry more coronavirus genetic material in their noses than older children and adults. The study, however, did not measure the rate at which the children transmit the virus to others.
The resurgence of COVID-19 in many countries is “driven in part by younger people letting down their guard during the Northern Hemisphere summer,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.
Young adults, many without masks, are ignoring social distancing recommendations to pack bars, nightclubs and beaches that have been reopened since authorities lifted coronavirus restrictions.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the coronavirus on July 7 and then negative last Saturday, said that after 20 days indoors he had mold on his lungs. He was being treated with antibiotics. He had repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as “a little flu.”
Brazil, as of Friday afternoon, had 2.6 million confirmed cases and 91,263 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
Among the confirmed cases was Brazil’s first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, who tested positive on Thursday, according to a statement from the presidential palace. Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes also said he had tested positive for the virus, making him the fifth cabinet minister diagnosed publicly.
Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, reimposed a two-week lockdown on Thursday after a surge in new confirmed COVID-19 cases. The increase came as the WHO warned against easing coronavirus restrictions throughout Africa. The WHO said the number of infections on the continent had doubled in the past month.
“We are concerned that ... we will see an increase in cases as we have seen in [other] countries” where restrictions have been eased too soon,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said.
She said more than 20 African countries had recorded more new cases than in the previous weeks, with South Africa accounting for the most but increases also reported in Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Moeti said Uganda, Seychelles and Mauritius were doing well in controlling the virus.
Cuba reported nine new cases Thursday, and 37 new cases earlier this week.
Just 10 days ago, Cuba reported no new cases for the first time since the outbreak began in March. Cuba has also reported no deaths for more than two weeks.
Cuba has so far been relatively successful in fighting COVID-19, but the island's top epidemiologist, Francisco Duran, said Thursday that Cubans were getting careless.