Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise

Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers push Trump to restore full funding for National Guards responding to pandemic Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Lawmakers of color urge Democratic leadership to protect underserved communities in coronavirus talks MORE (D-N.Y.) asked the White House coronavirus task force to brief Senate Democrats next week on the status of the pandemic as several states begin to see surges in new cases.

Schumer said that the briefing was needed "to wrest the focus back" on the coronavirus. 

“As the president continues to fixate on the stock market and Senate Republicans are ready to prematurely declare victory, we need to wrest the focus back to this crucial issue,” Schumer said Thursday from the Senate floor.

“We need to understand why these spikes are happening and how to adapt our national response,” he added.

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

More than 2 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S., but estimates released Thursday by a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest there could be another 12 million cases that haven’t been detected.

Weeks after states lifted lockdown orders, some are beginning to see an increase in cases that can't be attributed only to more testing.

“In some states, we’re seeing an increasing positivity rate, increasing number of tests and increasing cases. That’s a really bad dynamic because that tells you in no uncertain terms this is not an artifact of more testing. This is because there are more cases,” former CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters Thursday, referring specifically to outbreaks in Texas and Arizona, where COVID-19 hospitalizations increased in recent days.

Experts expected cases to increase after states began reopening because people would be interacting with each other more.

But the key is to “box the virus in” by testing widely, isolating positive cases, and finding, testing and isolating their contacts if they are also positive, Frieden said. Having those measures in place allows states to reopen safely while slowing the spread of the virus and preventing health systems from becoming overrun with patients.

“I think communities that don't do this well they don't box the virus in are at much higher risk of explosive spread of the virus,” Frieden said.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb made similar points Thursday, adding that Arizona and Texas haven’t been able to isolate the source of the infection.

“In states like Texas and Arizona it’s more pervasive and they haven’t been able to do the contact tracing to find a source or a group of activities that they’re able to take action on,” Gottlieb said on CNBC.

“That’s what’s concerning right now," he added. "They haven’t been able to take an effective public health action yet.”