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The top health leaders in the U.S. will testify before the Senate on Tuesday about the federal response to the omicron Covid variant, as new infections and hospitalizations reach pandemic highs.
The Senate health committee will hear testimony from White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock.
Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, is also testifying.
The hearing comes as the CDC faces criticism for its public messaging on the pandemic, particularly its quarantine guidance. The CDC cut the isolation period to five days for people who have Covid, but it did not recommend people get tested before leaving isolation.
The Biden administration has also been criticized for nationwide testing shortage during the busy holiday travel season as new infections were surging across the country.
Fauci will likely face questions about how vaccines are holding up against the highly mutated omicron variant. Omicron is able to evade some the protection provide by the vaccines. The variant is more contagious than past strains and it appears less severe, though researchers are still collecting data.
The FDA recently cut the waiting period for Pfizer and Moderna booster shots to five months, in an effort to get more third shots in people’s arms in order to build up protection in communities across the U.S. as omicron spread.
The U.S. is reporting a seven-day average more than 750,000 new infections daily, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s a 53% increase over the prior week and a pandemic record.