Coronavirus Live Updates: Congress to Examine Trump’s Pandemic Response

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health officials will testify before a House panel on testing, vaccines and school reopening. There are strong signs that Native Americans have been hit hard by the virus.

Vietnam has announced its first coronavirus death. The country has had low virus numbers but is experiencing a spike in cases.

Two days after U.S. deaths surpassed 150,000, three familiar federal health officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, will return to Capitol Hill to testify in front of a new audience: the House’s special select committee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, will be joined on Friday morning by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health and the administration’s point person on coronavirus testing.

The hearing begins at 9 a.m. and will be streamed online by The New York Times.

The three witnesses last testified a month ago before lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate, when the subject was school reopening.

But the Democrat-led House select committee has had a hard time securing Dr. Fauci and his colleagues as witnesses. The Trump administration initially refused to make them available.

The hearing is taking place as states across the country are reimposing limits in response to a resurgence of cases — a turn of events reflected in the title lawmakers gave the hearing: “The Urgent Need for a National Plan to Contain the Coronavirus.”

The session is expected to center on three overlapping subjects: testing, vaccines and the push in some quarters to send children back to school. On Thursday, the president, meeting with reporters, again stressed his desire for students to return to the classroom.

With President Trump clearly intent on announcing promising vaccine news, it has fallen to Dr. Fauci to offer reassurances that the federal government is moving quickly but safely.

Dr. Redfield will most likely be asked about the C.D.C.’s shift on reopening schools. The agency’s recently published guidelines tilt strongly toward reopening, listing numerous benefits of in-person education and playing down potential health risks.

For Admiral Giroir. the questions are likely to focus on delays in test results across the South, where local health officials have complained of excruciating wait times.

The coronavirus panel was established this spring by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in large part to put a check on how the federal government is spending the trillions of dollars in emergency aid. But its mandate has broadened to include a panoply of issues, including racial disparities in the pandemic and nursing home outbreaks.

Some of the House’s fieriest members are on the panel, including Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who has been a regular skeptic of Dr. Fauci and public health mandates, including mask wearing.

Several of the panel’s prominent Democrats are also not known for shying away from conflict, including its chairman, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, and Representative Maxine Waters of California.

The hearing will take place a day after Florida and Arizona broke single-day records for deaths from the virus, with Florida reporting 253 deaths on Thursday and Arizona 158. Mississippi also set a record, with 48 deaths. That state and three others — Missouri, Hawaii and Ohio — set single-day records for new cases.

The pandemic’s toll on businesses in the United States became emphatically clearer as the government detailed the most devastating three-month economic collapse on record, which wiped away nearly five years of growth. Read more on the economic crisis.

President Trump, whose unsteady handling of the virus has left him trailing in the polls, floated the idea of changing the date of the presidential election — a suggestion he has no authority to enact, and which instantly drew rare rebukes from top Republicans. Read more on Mr. Trump’s words and the reaction to them.

U.S. lawmakers failed to extend jobless benefits that are expiring today. On Thursday, the Senate dissolved into partisan bickering over a sweeping economic stabilization package, clashing over dueling proposals. Tens of millions of Americans have depended on the $600-a-week unemployment aid for months. Read more about the impasse.

Herman Cain, who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and was a recent contender for a top Federal Reserve job, died after being hospitalized with the coronavirus. Read Mr. Cain’s obituary.

Cases in New Jersey are rising again. Just a week ago, the state recorded its lowest seven-day average of new daily cases — 224 — since the numbers peaked in the state in early April, according to a database maintained by The New York Times. But the state has averaged 416 cases per day over the past week. Read more about the uptick in cases in New Jersey.

Even with significant gaps in the available data, there are strong indications that Native American people have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

The rate of known cases in the eight counties with the largest populations of Native Americans is nearly double the national average, a New York Times analysis has found. The analysis cannot determine which individuals are testing positive for the virus, but these counties are home to one in six U.S. residents who describe themselves in census surveys as non-Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native.

And there are many other smaller counties with significant populations of Native Americans that have elevated case rates, including Yakima County, Wash. The Times identified at least 15 counties that have elevated case rates and are home to sizable numbers of Native American residents, ranging from large metropolitan areas in Arizona to rural communities in Nebraska and Mississippi.

Counties with large Native American populations with reported infection rates above 1,500 cases per 100,000 residents.

By Scott Reinhard | Source: Times database of coronavirus cases compiled from state and local health agencies as of July 24.

“I feel as though tribal nations have an effective death sentence when the scale of this pandemic, if it continues to grow, exceeds the public resources available,” said Fawn Sharp, the president of the Quinault Indian Nation and of the National Congress of American Indians.

The trends are troubling enough that congressional leaders have asked the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to examine them.

In New Mexico, Native American and Alaska Native people have accounted for nearly 40 percent of virus cases, though they make up 9 percent of the population.

Hospitalization rates published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggest that Native American people are overrepresented among those who become seriously ill from the virus. Federal data tracking individual coronavirus cases often omits race and ethnicity information.

Native Americans — particularly those living on reservations — are more prone to contract the virus because of crowded housing conditions that make social distancing difficult, said Allison Barlow, director of the Center for American Indian Health at Johns Hopkins University. And years of underfunded health systems, food and water insecurity and other factors contribute to underlying health conditions that can make the illness more severe once contracted.

A stark lack of testing in many African countries has kept officials from being able to track the pandemic, prompting fears that a recent surge in cases across the continent may be just the “tip of the iceberg,” according to the International Rescue Committee.

Each country in Africa where the committee works has conducted fewer than 8,000 tests per million people, the group said. By contrast, Britain has conducted 205,782 tests per million, the United Arab Emirates 472,590 per million, and Singapore 199,904 per million, the committee said.

The committee cited Tanzania (63 tests per million), Niger (373 tests per million), Chad (383 tests per million), Democratic Republic of Congo (467 tests per million) and Burundi (563 tests per million) as having the lowest testing rates among the African countries where it works.

The committee, a global humanitarian aid organization, said that testing in many African countries was falling far short of the rate of at least one test per 1,000 people per week recommended by the World Health Organization.

The organization said many African nations needed international support to increase their testing capacity or the continent could face “an undetected and uncontrolled spread — and a response fighting with a hand tied behind its back.”

“The testing shortfalls make it nearly impossible to understand the extent of the pandemic — let alone put measures in place to stop it,” Stacey Mearns, a senior technical adviser on emergency health at the committee, said in a statement.

Reporting was contributed by Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Kate Conger, Robert Gebeloff, Michael Levenson, Eshe Nelson, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Matt Phillips, Eliza Shapiro, Neil Vigdor, Mihir Zaveri.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/31/world/coronavirus-covid-19.html

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