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Fauci tells Congress more testing needed to combat ‘disturbing surge’ in virus

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before Congress Tuesday, referring to the spread of COVID-19 in a dozen U.S. states as “a disturbing surge.” Fauci and other top health experts reiterated the need for more testing, even as President Trump claimed that “testing is a double-edged sword” in the pandemic fight. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    COVID-19 keeps spreading across swathes of the United States, and national experts are telling Congress they are worried. They are also calling for more testing.

    Amna Nawaz will talk with a physician in a Texas city that's being hit hard, after this look at the day's events from congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    It's a mixed bag, some good, and some now we have a problem with.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    From the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the latest assessment of where things stand more than three months into the pandemic.

    He and three other top national health officials testified at a congressional hearing. At the top of the agenda, rising numbers of cases across much of the Sun Belt.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surgings that we are seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona, and in other states. They're not the only ones that are having a difficulty.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In fact, a dozen states across the South and Southwest are hitting new infection records. New hot spots are emerging even as some states move to reopen their economies.

    That includes places like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a popular vacation spot that's helped bump the state's new infection rate, when adjusted for population, to fourth place nationally.

    Still, Fauci said today he is optimistic that a vaccine to counter the spread could be ready by the end of this year or early next. And he vowed that officials will not cut corners to get there.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    I would be very disappointed if we jumped to a conclusion before we knew that a vaccine was truly safe and truly effective, because I wouldn't want the perpetual ambiguity of not knowing whether or not it is truly safe and truly effective.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Also testifying today, Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services. He focused on testing.

  • Adm. Brett Giroir:

    The only way that we will be able to understand who has the disease, who is infected and can pass it, and to do appropriate contact tracing is to test appropriately, smartly, and as many people as we can.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's become a contentious point within the administration, after President Trump said he called for scaling back tests, Mr. Trump said bluntly, because testing was driving up case numbers.

    Aides said he was kidding, but today came this:

  • President Donald Trump:

    I don't kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Leaving the White House for Arizona this morning, Mr. Trump doubled down on the idea.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Testing is a double-edge sword. In one way, it tells you, you have cases. In another way, you find out where the cases are, and you do a good job.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Back at the House committee hearing, Fauci said that, in fact, the president has never asked them to cut back on testing.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    But, to my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All of this as the virus continues to pass new milestones around the world. Cases in South Africa topped 100,000 today, totaling nearly a third of all infections across the African continent.

    The spread is also accelerating in India, where 15,000 new cases were recorded in the past day. The picture is starkly different elsewhere.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

    Today, we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end, and life is returning to our streets and to our shops.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country will begin to ease social distancing restrictions, including at pubs and restaurants, by early July.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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