WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/12/20]—Today, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) that the country has a moral responsibility to protect essential workers and must have tools in place like testing, contact tracing and the ability to quickly respond when coronavirus (COVID-19) infections break out in order for the country to effectively open up its economy.
Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, pressed Fauci for his best guidance on safely reopening the economy in Minnesota and across the country at a hearing Tuesday that she and most Committee members attended remotely.
Sen. Smith asked Fauci about the impact of COVID-19 infections on workers in hot spots like meat processing plants in Minnesota that have been hit hard by COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.
“If you want to keep things like packing plants open, you have to provide the optimum degree of protection for the workers involved, the ability for them to go to work safely—and if, and when, individuals get infected to immediately be able to get them out and get them proper care,” Dr. Fauci responded. “When you’re calling upon people to perform essential services, you have almost a moral responsibility to make sure they’re well taken care of and well protected.”
Sen. Smith said that everyone wants to reopen the economy, but pressed Fauci for guidance on the consequences of doing so without adequate safeguards, and tools like testing and contact tracing. “If we move forward on reopening the economy and yet we still have circumstances like we have in these processing plants and in other places around the state,” Sen. Smith said, “we’re going to be right back where we started, but in a worse place.”
Fauci responded: “One of the things I keep emphasizing, and I’ll repeat it again because it’s important – that when you are in the process of opening up and pulling back on mitigation, you really must have in place the capability of responding when you do have the inevitable upticks in cases. That will absolutely occur,” he said. “It’s how we deal with it—and how successful we are in putting the clamps on it—that will prevent us from getting the kind of rebound that not only from the stand point of illness and death would be unacceptable, but it would set us back in our progress toward reopening the country.”
You can see their exchange at the hearing here.
Fauci, a key member of the Coronavirus Task Force, testified alongside Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, as well as Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, and Adm. Brett Giroir, the Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services.