WASHINGTON—In an exchange with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield today at a Health Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) reiterated the need for clear and comprehensive data on the transmission of COVID-19, especially in light of the recent increase in infections around the country.
Excerpts of Senator Romney’s exchange with Dr. Fauci (NIH) and Dr. Redfield (CDC) can be found below.
Senator Romney: So my question is this, where is the risk greatest? How is it that it is spreading? Is it spreading indoors, is it spreading more at restaurants and bars? Is it okay to be outdoors and perhaps not socially distanced? Are family reunions okay? Could you give us guidance based on what we hopefully know as to where the risks are greatest? I know you say social distance and masks. But people are getting in airplanes, and they're going to restaurants. Where is the risk greatest and where are we relatively safe? Can you help us through that? Family reunions? Can we get together with family reunions outdoors? Is it safer outdoors than indoors? Give us some guidance. Could you do that, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield?
Dr. Redfield: Thank you, Senator. I think first and foremost, the most important thing in that assessment is knowing at the granular level what the kinetics of transmission are in the community. As I mentioned, we have 130 counties right now in the United States where we consider them “hot spots.” We have many other areas where there is very limited transmission. So first and foremost, it is knowing if you're in that area of active transmission. And then secondly, it is knowing what you do when you're in that area of active transmission, and what precautions one takes…. I will say there is more and more data showing that the use of face coverings and masks are an effective way to prevent transmission in these gatherings. I think we're just going to come back and tell you the most important thing, if you're within a community, with limited transmission, and you're wearing face masks or there is significant transmission and you're wearing face masks, and you practice the social distancing and hand washing, that is the best recommendations I could tell you.
Dr. Fauci: In addition, Senator, outdoor better than indoor. Bars really not good—really not good. Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really got to stop that right now, when you have areas that are surging like we see right now. But in answer to your question, a little bit more granular, outdoor is always better than indoor. If you’re outdoor distanced as Bob said, wear a mask if you can. But you can have some social interaction. The one point I want to make very briefly is that we should not look at the public health endeavors as being an obstruction to opening up. We should look at it as a vehicle to opening up. So that you don't want to just restrict everything because people are not going to tolerate that. So you could get outdoors, you can interact, wear a mask, try to avoid the close congregation of people, wash your hands often. But don't just make it all or none. We've got to be able to get people to get out and enjoy themselves within the safe guidelines that we have. So make public health work for you as opposed to against you.
Senator Romney: I very much appreciate those responses. I think it would be extraordinarily helpful for all of us as we are going about our lives if there is data that indicated where people are getting infected. Were they in a bar? Were they in a restaurant? Were they outdoors at a pool? I've heard reports that virtually nobody has been infected if they're outdoors. Is that true or not true? Given how long we've been at this, we have got to have more granular data so people know where there is greater risk. How many people, for instance, have been infected as a result of flying on airplanes? We have to know that. If we could publish that information for the American people, they will know where they can be safe and go back. And of course, continuing social distancing and wearing masks, but we need that data.