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News Wrap: Fauci rejects Rand Paul’s claims on herd immunity

In our news wrap Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed cautious optimism during a Senate hearing about the outlook for a reliable coronavirus vaccine. But when Republican Sen. Rand Paul argued that herd immunity is working, Fauci shot back, “if you believe that...you are alone.” Also, in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in for his sixth term after weeks of protest.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: Long lines of people passed by the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lay in repose in a flag-covered coffin.

    The solemn procession was in contrast to the high-stakes fight over replacing Ginsburg. President Trump now says that he will name his nominee Saturday afternoon.

    We will look at all of this after the news summary.

    Top U.S. health officials voiced careful confidence today about a coronavirus vaccine. At a U.S. Senate hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he's hoping for a reliable vaccine by December. He also said people will still need to use masks and social distancing.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there's never a guarantee of that.

    We feel strongly that, if we have a combination of adherence to public health measures, together with a vaccine that will be distributed to this country and worldwide, we may be able to turn around this terrible pandemic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the hearing, Republican Senator Rand Paul argued that so-called herd immunity is working, and that's why infections have fallen in New York.

    Fauci responded — quote — "If you believe that, you are alone."

    Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson announced final-stage testing for a single-dose vaccine. Other U.S. candidates call for two doses.

    Democrats in the U.S. House offered a sweeping reform bill today aimed at President Trump. They say it's aimed at his repeated abuses of power. The bill would limit the president's ability to issue pardons, strengthen the ban on foreign gifts to presidents, and better protect whistle-blowers, among other things.

    Two committees in the GOP-run Senate have issued a report on Hunter Biden's work for a gas company in Ukraine. It alleges that his involvement posed the appearance of a conflict of interests for his father, then Vice President Joe Biden. The Biden presidential campaign dismissed it as an obvious effort by Senate Republicans to influence the November election.

    The acting U.S. secretary of homeland security faced his Senate confirmation hearing today to become the permanent secretary. Chad Wolf flatly denied shaping intelligence assessments to favor President Trump's agenda. He also said officials are investigating claims of unwanted hysterectomies on migrant women at a Georgia detention center.

  • Chad Wolf:

    Some of the facts on the ground and the facts we have seen do not back up those allegations.

    If there is a kernel of truth to any of that, you can guarantee that I will hold those accountable, and we will take very decisive action.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Wolf also said he had no role in awarding government contracts to his wife's consulting firm.

    In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in for his sixth term, after weeks of protests that his reelection was rigged. Top officials applauded as Lukashenko took his oath of office again in Minsk. The ceremony was not announced beforehand. Later, police used water cannon on protesters in several cities.

    Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been discharged after a month in a hospital in Berlin, Germany. He had been treated for poisoning with what German experts say was a Soviet-era nerve agent. Now doctors say he could have a complete recovery.

    Back in this country, California may become the first state to ban sales of new passenger cars and trucks that use gasoline. The proposed rule, announced today, would take effect by 2035. It's designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent. Used vehicles powered by gasoline could still be sold.

    Wall Street's ongoing whiplash struck again today. Stocks plunged, a day after a major rally. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 525 points, nearly 2 percent, to close at 26763. The Nasdaq fell 330 points, or 3 percent, and the S&P 500 dropped 78, also, 2 percent.

    And Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers died today after battling dementia. Starting in 1965, he became one of the most electrifying runners in NFL history, and later the youngest inductee ever in the football league's Hall of Fame at just 34. Sayers' bond with Brian Piccolo, a dying teammate, also gained renown, as depicted in the movie "Brian's Song."

    Gale Sayers was 77 years old.

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