During his sometimes testy testimony before the U.S. Senate, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, warned people that COVID-19 could be causing dangerous heart conditions, even in those who appeared to have no symptoms.
Fauci also confronted Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky about his tendency to suggest that herd immunity as a strategy could reduce the virus’ spread.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, Fauci is still the most trusted source (68%) on the coronavirus over any other official, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) close behind.
Fauci Said Health Specialists Are Keeping an Eye on COVID-Related Long-Term Illnesses
During his testimony, Fauci said that there remains a lot that health specialists do not know or understand about the COVID-19 disease, including its long-term effects. However, he did state that some of the findings related to heart conditions have been troubling.
Here is what Fauci said in response to a question asked by Senator Chris Murphy:
That’s really quite puzzling because there were two studies, (one) not in athletes and the one you mentioned in atheltes. The study in the non atheltes were individuals who had recovered from COVID-19 and had various degrees of involvement from moderate disease to disease that would require intervention medically. By doing MRIs, they found that about 60-70% of them had indications of inflammatory disease in the heart. Interstingly, they were relatively asymptomatic. So I think that we need to be careful and just watch what happens. Because one of the possibilities that could develop is that a) it could clear up and they have no problem for the rest of their lives. The other is when you have inflammation, you can have scarring that could lead to arrhythnmias later on that could lead to myopathies. I have to tell you I do not know what it would be, but it’s something we really need to keep our eye out on.
One of the reports Fauci described had discovered that 30-35% of Big Ten athletes who tested positive for coronavirus also had myocarditis symptoms, according to USA Today. This follows other studies, some of which have taken place as early as May, linking myocarditis and coronavirus.
For example, this July study which looked at MRIs of patients who had COVID-19 found that 60% of patients had experienced negative cardiac effects:
100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 identified from a COVID-19 test center, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging revealed cardiac involvement in 78 patients (78%) and ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60 patients (60%), which was independent of preexisting conditions, severity and overall course of the acute illness, and the time from the original diagnosis.
Other long-term effects reported from the disease can include pain, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and chronic fatigue syndrome in adults.
Fauci Clapped at Senator Rand Paul’s Comments About Herd Immunity
Fauci also had a testy exchange with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who appeared to take issue with Fauci’s statement that a physical lockdown would have significantly slowed the spread of the disease.
The two also sparred over Fauci’s comments about New York’s effectiveness at handling the virus and whether herd immunity is what slowed the spread in that state. Herd immunity is described by the Mayo Clinic as what occurs when “a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely.”
Here is the exchange between those two:
Paul: Dr. Fauci, today you said that you are not for economic lockdown. Yet your mitigation recommendations from dating to baseball to restaurants to movie theaters have led to this economic lockdown. Do you have any second thoughts about your mitigation recommendations, considering the evidence that despite all the things that we’ve done that you asked, our death date is essentially worse than Sweden and equivalent to the rest of the gulf world that is unable to do any of the things that you’ve been promoting? Do you have any second thoughts? Are you willing to look at the data that countries that did very little actually have a lower death rate than the United States?
Fauci: You know, senator, I’d be happy at a different time to sit down and go over detail. You’ve said a lot of different things. You’ve compared us to Sweden and there are a lot of differences; you said, well, you know there are a lot of differences between Sweden. But compare Sweden’s death rate to other comparable Scandanavian countries; it’s worse. So I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare Sweden with us. I think, in the beginning, we’ve done things based on the knowledge that we had at the time. And hopefully — and I am and my colleagues are — humble enough and modest enough to realize that as new data comes, you make different recommendations. But I don’t regret saying that the only way we could have really stopped the explosion of infection is by essentially — I don’t want to say shutting down — essentially having the physical separations and the kinds of recommendations that we’ve made.
Paul: But you have been a big fan of Governor Cuomo and the shut down in New York, you have lauded New York for their policy. New York haD the highest death rate in the world, how can we possibly be jumping up and down and saying Governor Cuomo did a great job? He had the worst death rate in the world.
Fauci: No, you misconstrued that, Senator, and you have done that repetitively in the past. They got hit very badly they made some mistakes. Right now, if you look at what is going on right now, the things that are going on in New York to get their test positivity rate to 1% or less is because they are looking at the guidelines that we have put together from the task force of the four or five things of masks, social distancing, outdoor more than indoors, avoiding crowds and washing hands.
Paul: Or they have developed enough immunity that they are no longer having a pandemic because they have enough immunity in New York City to actually stop it.
Fauci: I challenge that, Senator. Please, sir, I would like to be able to do this because this happened with Senator Rand all of the time. You are not listening to what the director of the CDC said, that in New York, it is about 22%. If you believe 22% is herd immunity, I believe you are alone in that.
Paul: There is also the pre-existing immunity of those who have cross-reactivity, which is about a third of the public from many estimates from studies, which would actually get you to about 1/3.
Fauci: I’d like to talk to you about that also because there was a study that recently came out that pre-existing immunity to coronavirus has that are the common cold do not cross-react with a COVID-19.
After his comments, Paul continued to insist that herd immunity is a potential reason that the virus has decreased in some regions: “On the questions of herd immunity, they’re dismissive of this, but I’m sending some (things) to Dr. Fauci so he can read some of this,” he said in a live interview with Fox News.
World Health Organization Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan estimated that herd immunity would actually need to be much higher, with 60-70% infected in order for herd immunity to be achieved. According to the New York Department of Health tracker, the state’s number of infected vs tested reached close to 25% at the height of the virus in the spring.
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