Top health officials testify before US senators about response to omicron variant

US surpasses its record for COVID-19 hospitalizations

The nation’s top health officials testified Tuesday before United States senators about the federal government’s response to the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The nation’s top health officials testified Tuesday before United States senators about the federal government’s response to the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The hearing — which, at times, was tense and personal — comes at a critical time as the U.S. surpasses its record for COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The Biden administration was under fire from senators over its response to the omicron variant.

“The facts about the value of vaccines and booster are crystal clear, but the way the administration rolled out boosters was a disaster,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Burr criticized a lack of testing options for Americans when they needed it the most.

“Over the holidays, when Americans were instructed to do the responsible thing and get tests before they see loved ones, there were no tests on the shelves or online, and hourslong lines were the norm at testing sites across the country,” Burr said.

Burr and other senators said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest quarantine and isolation guidance was confusing for the average American.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky defended the Biden administration’s work, calling it a major accomplishment that schools remained open during the height of the delta surge.

″Schools should be the first place to open and the last place to close. We had a delta surge in the fall, and 99 percent of our schools remained open, and one of the things that’s majorly different from September 2021 and today is that we pediatric vaccinations available for every child over the age of 5,” Walensky said.

Walensky said the Biden administration has developed new testing programs in schools, including one called “test-to-stay,” in which students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 don’t have to stay home in quarantine but instead test every other day.

“And what that has demonstrated is hundreds of thousands of person days of children in school rather than at home,” Walensky said.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, took aim at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“Do you think it’s a great success what’s happened so far? You think the lockdowns were good for our kids? Do you think we have slowed down the death rate? More people have died now under President [Joe] Biden than President [Donald] Trump. You are the one responsible. You are responsible. You are the lead architect,” Paul said.

Paul accused Fauci of trying to discredit scientists who do not trust his findings. Fauci fired back, saying Paul’s personal attacks are only for political gain.

″What happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me,” Fauci said.

Fauci later pulled out a screenshot of Paul’s website, which said “Fire Dr. Fauci” and also asked readers to make a donation to Paul’s campaign. Fauci accused Paul of fueling extremism, pointing to the arrest of a man who was allegedly on his way to Washington, D.C., with an AR-15 with the intent of killing Fauci.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.