Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC chief, says ‘personal responsibility’ vital to slowing COVID-19

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The nation’s top disease-fighter on Tuesday said COVID-19 hospitalizations are up in a dozen states and deaths are rising in Arizona, offering a sober evaluation of the coronavirus pandemic as cases surge in the South and West.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the Sun Belt spike is due in part to increased testing but also the result of community transmission and outbreaks at nursing homes and work sites.

“It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings,” Dr. Redfield told the Senate Health Committee. “Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society — the millennials and Generation Zs. I ask those that are listening to spread the word.”

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander kicked off the hearing by saying President Trump — who hasn’t used the bully pulpit to encourage mask-wearing — should wear a face coverage at least once in a while, to set a positive example.

“The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his lead,” the Tennessee Republican said.

Members of Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force are testifying as governors pause reopening plans or close bars to try and reverse concerning trends on the horizons.

States like New York and New Jersey are rethinking plans to allow indoor dining again, citing bad experiences in other states and their desire to avoid another crisis after getting slammed early on.

Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, said the U.S. response “is still a disaster,” citing a death toll of 126,000 that would have been on the upper end of estimates earlier this year.

“The year is just halfway over and now it is a grim reality,” she said. “Despite what President Trump says, this pandemic is not fading — far from it.”

Officials are pleading with Americans to take precautions as scientists develop a vaccine, so life can get back to normal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there is “no guarantee” an effective vaccine will be developed, but he’s cautiously optimistic that doses will be available by early next year.

In the meantime, Mr. Alexander said it will be critical to help schools and colleges looking to reopen this fall.

“The question before the country today is not about whether to go back to school or college or child care or work, but how to do it safely,” he said. “Even though COVID-19 has not, in general, hurt young children and college-age students nearly as much as older or more vulnerable Americans, there is some health risk. But in my view, the greater risk is not going back to school.”

Dr. Fauci said the ability to open specific schools may depend on the disease situation in each district.

“If we adhere to guidelines about physical distancing, use of masks, that will help keep the level of infection in the community down,” he said. “That will make it easier to get children back to school.”

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