Fauci Testifies Before The House; Permanent Work-From-Home : Consider This from NPR Wearing a face mask, with hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes close at hand, Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before the House Tuesday, to explain why the U.S. still struggles to get a handle on the coronavirus.

On Saturday, the U.S. reported 32,411 new cases in just that one day.

Fauci also countered President Trump's claim that more testing is "a double-edged sword" to blame for the rise in coronavirus cases across the country. Instead, Fauci says testing is essential if we want to get control of the virus.

And NPR's Lauren Frayer takes us to India, where the health care system is collapsing under the heavy demand caused by COVID-19.

Plus — for the past three months, just about everyone who can work from home has. And for the most part, things seem to be working. So, as NPR's Uri Berliner reports, more and more employers are looking to make the move permanent.

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This episode was recorded and published as part of this podcast's former 'Coronavirus Daily' format.

'Next Couple Weeks Are Going To Be Critical', Fauci Warns As New Cases Rise

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Hey. Just a quick thing before we get started - we want you to know that pretty soon, we are going to change the name of the show from CORONAVIRUS DAILY to Consider This. And we're going to start to bring you stories that are not just about the pandemic, but that does not mean we're going to stop covering the news about the virus. It is still here, and so are we. For now, we would love to hear from you. Our email is still coronavirusdaily@npr.org. OK. Here's the show.

On the White House lawn Tuesday, President Trump was asked by a CBS News reporter about something he said at his rally in Tulsa over the weekend. What he said was he'd actually told his staff to slow down testing to keep the number of positive cases down. And so the reporter asked if he was kidding when he said that.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear.

MCEVERS: But then...


ANTHONY FAUCI: I, as a member of the task force and my colleagues on the task force, to my knowledge...

MCEVERS: Dr. Anthony Fauci testified Tuesday there was no slowing down.


FAUCI: To my knowledge, none of us had ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact.

MCEVERS: The president has called increased testing a double-edged sword that leads to a spike in the number of cases. At the same time, nearly all public health experts agreed this country needs more testing, not less. Coming up, more from Dr. Fauci and how the health care system in India is collapsing. This is CORONAVIRUS DAILY from NPR. I'm Kelly McEvers. It's Tuesday, June 23.


MCEVERS: Wearing a face mask with hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes on the table next to him, Dr. Anthony Fauci sat down to testify at the House on Tuesday.


FAUCI: Today the committee is holding a hearing entitled oversight of the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MCEVERS: He and three other officials who helped lead the U.S. response to the pandemic were asked by the committee's Democrats about how the U.S. ended up here.


FAUCI: We have a very large country, very heterogeneous - major differences, for example, between the New York metropolitan area and Casper, Wyo. If you look at how we've been hit, we've been hit badly.

MCEVERS: Now that more than 120,000 people have died in the U.S. and with nearly 2.5 million confirmed cases so far - the highest numbers in the world - anyone can see, Fauci said, that this country is struggling. But...


FAUCI: In some respects, we've done very well.

MCEVERS: For example, the New York metro area - cases there did go down dramatically with social distancing. And New York City is now carefully taking steps to reopen.


FAUCI: However, in other areas of the country, we're now seeing a disturbing surge of infections that looks like it's a combination. But one of the things is an increase in community spread.

MCEVERS: That increase happens when places reopen and people come in more contact with each other - barber shops, restaurants, parties and barbecues - but when there's not enough testing and there are conflicting messages about masking and other precautions. Now some cities and states are pausing their plans to reopen, and others are even closing places that just reopened.


FAUCI: Right now the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we're seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona and in other states. They're not the only ones that are having a difficulty. Bottom line, Mr. Chairman - it's a mixed bag, some good and some now we have a problem with.


MCEVERS: Since all of this started, just about everyone who can work from home is working from home. And now - three months into this huge, unplanned social experiment - working from home seems to be going OK. It's not just big tech companies like Twitter and Facebook that are saying employees will be able to work from home even after the pandemic. Ohio-based Nationwide Insurance is shutting down five regional offices. The company's CEO Kirt Walker says the employees' response to that decision has been...


KIRT WALKER: Overwhelming. Hundreds of emails and cards and letters and phone calls - thank you for doing this. So I think we got it right.

MCEVERS: Right for the employees and right for the company's finances.


WALKER: As a private company, we've elected not to share what the savings are, but they're significant.

MCEVERS: NPR's Uri Berliner takes it from here.


URI BERLINER: Saving money - it's always an attractive proposition for businesses, especially these days. And that's likely to drive the shift to remote work. Kate Lister consults with companies on the future of work at Global Workplace Analytics.

KATE LISTER: Going into a, you know, recession and economic downturn, you know, those CEOs are laying awake at night, thinking of all those buildings that they're, you know, heating. Productivity is continuing without being at the office - and saying, wow, I think we could use for a change here.

BERLINER: Companies including investment banks Morgan Stanley and Barclays and food giant Mondelez all expect to use less real estate as more employees work from home. But remote work all the time isn't popular with either bosses or workers. Workplace consultant Lister has done a survey showing that the sweet spot for employees is splitting the workweek between home and office. And that would suit Matthew Shultz just fine.

MATTHEW SHULTZ: If I were to have it my way, I would probably work from home three days a week and go into the office two.

BERLINER: Shultz is a plumbing designer who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Normally, he drives an hour each day to get to an office in Dallas. But these days, he pads over to a guest bedroom at home and fires up his computer.

SHULTZ: You know, I'm sitting here wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and I've got, you know, my two cats just running around all through the house. It's kind of weird, but at the same time, it's more comfortable. And I feel like I'm a lot more relaxed here than I am in the office.

BERLINER: Shultz says he gets at least as much done from home as in the office. And that tracks Lister's survey showing 77% of workers say they're fully productive at home. And managers are largely satisfied with their work performance. Now, the caveats - more than half of working Americans can't do their jobs remotely at all. And before we get giddy thinking that work from home is a cure-all, it's worth listening to Judy Olson.

JUDY OLSON: I've been studying distance work for about 30 years now.

BERLINER: Olson is a professor at the University of California, Irvine. She says there are significant downsides to remote work. Collaboration with colleagues often suffers. You can feel lonely and isolated.

OLSON: The hardest thing for somebody to deal with long-distance is silence.

BERLINER: And it's easy to feel like you've disappeared from the action, the casual chats and the important decisions.

OLSON: Basically blind and invisible, so you have to take all kinds of extra effort to make sure that you coordinate well with the people that you're working with.

BERLINER: Oh, and one other thing - Olson says it's important to have a good chair if you're working from home. You don't want to throw out your back.

MCEVERS: That was NPR's Uri Berliner.


MCEVERS: At first, India avoided the worst of the coronavirus outbreak. Then it started reopening. Now it is seeing record numbers of new cases almost every day. And while the relative numbers of cases and deaths are worse here in the U.S., India doesn't have the same resources this country has. And its already struggling health care system is collapsing. NPR's Lauren Frayer has this story from Mumbai.


LAUREN FRAYER: As India's lockdown eased, Kanishk Dutt's (ph) family started going out. And his grandfather started coughing. He's 77 and has a heart condition.

KANISHK DUTT: He was having breathing problems. And that's when we realized and decided to take him to a nearby hospital, which actually refused to take the patient.

FRAYER: The hospital turned them away because his grandfather had not had a COVID-19 test, and they couldn't administer one there. So they went to another hospital, but it was full.

DUTT: We are running from hospitals to hospitals, and his condition was such that he was not in his senses.

FRAYER: Finally, they went to a private clinic, which tested him for about $60. Most Indians would not be able to afford that. Dutt's grandfather was positive. But the clinic didn't have a bed for him, so Dutt is taking care of him at home. India's free public hospitals are overflowing. Private ones are charging up to a thousand dollars a day for intensive care, and many of them are even full. Even the rich and famous now find themselves in the same boat as everyone else.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Please. Please. I really need your help.

FRAYER: A soap opera star posted a video on Instagram begging for a hospital bed for her mother. Social media is full of desperate pleas like this. Some Indians are dying in parking lots and on sidewalks outside clinics. And if they do manage to get inside...


FRAYER: This video shows corpses in body bags lined up right alongside the beds of live patients on oxygen at a public hospital in Mumbai. Dr. Sonali Vaid (ph) runs a COVID-19 help line in Delhi. She's also a public health expert, and she says India's health system was already near collapse even before the virus hit.

SONALI VAID: Having two patients on a bed and one on the floor is not an uncommon sight, even in pre-COVID times. We've already had broken slippers, and now we're trying to run a marathon with broken slippers.

FRAYER: The government called an early, strict lockdown, which helped slow the spread of the virus. But it was forced to lift the lockdown amid mass unemployment and even starvation. And now the virus is surging. Dr. Ritu Priya (ph), another public health expert, says India should've used that time to better prepare by possibly even nationalizing private hospitals.

RITU PRIYA: Because 80% of our doctors are in the private sector. There has to be some kind of structure by which they come under command of the public system.

FRAYER: But this far into the pandemic, both public and private hospitals in India's biggest cities are now overloaded. It means that even non-COVID patients struggle to get care.

PROMILA MINZ: (Speaking Hindi).

FRAYER: Promila Minz describes how her 55-year-old mother recently suffered a stroke at her home in Delhi. Minz works as a housemaid. Her family is poor. So Minz rushed her mother to a government hospital and then to five more.

MINZ: (Speaking Hindi).

FRAYER: Minz says she and her sister ferried their ailing mother around in taxis and rickshaws for 12 hours in 90-degree heat. Finally, Minz's employer managed to call in a favor to a local politician. Her mother is now in intensive care.

MCEVERS: NPR's Lauren Frayer.

For more on the coronavirus, you can stay up to date with all the news on your local public radio station and on npr.org. Additional reporting in this episode was from Laurel Wamsley.

I'm Kelly McEvers. Thanks for listening. We will be back with more tomorrow.

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