States have enough money to begin safely reopening: Sen. Bill Cassidy

He touted the possibility of "immunity registry" as long-term response ramps up.

May 13, 2020, 4:07 PM

Congress has allocated states the money they need to begin safely reopening, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said on ABC's "Powerhouse Politics" podcast.

"Congress has given state and local public departments and governments lots of resources to begin to implement programs that can help contain disease and allow Americans to return to their life," Cassidy said to ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.

"You've got the money and you've got the resources the CDC will be making available to you. Let's get on it. That's what I'm worried about, Cassidy said. "But it really seems that we need to move beyond the beltway, into the local health department to figure out how to keep Americans safe and allow them to reopen their beauty shop."

Cassidy, a gastroenterologist, has worked on immunity research as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in an attempt to track coronavirus immunity, which he says would allow Americans to return to work.

Cassidy said the concept of an "immunity registry" as part of the long- term COVID-19 recovery is feasible.

"We're just still a little bit to be determined, but it really is pointing towards if you've been previously exposed, developed antibodies, you're now immune," Cassidy said.

PHOTO: Staff of Odyssey House Louisiana, which runs a drive-through testing site for the coronavirus disease, work at the site in New Orleans, March 27, 2020.
Staff of Odyssey House Louisiana, which runs a drive-through testing site for the coronavirus disease, work at the site in New Orleans, March 27, 2020.
Kathleen Flynn/Reuters, FILE

He said immunity tracking would need to prioritize personal privacy similar to the way childhood vaccination records are handled.

"Privacy is always preeminent, but it's going to be important for us to figure that out," Cassidy said. "Most people don't want to wear a mask. They just don't. So if you tell them, ‘Hey, listen, you don't have to wear a mask if you're positive, if you're immune.' They're gonna rip that mask off. It's uncomfortable. So I think it really benefits the individual."

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President Donald Trump has raised the possibility of immunity tracking during White House briefings with the coronavirus task force. The science is still out on its feasibility — but Dr. Anthony Fauci has said in interviews he believes tracking is possible.

PHOTO: Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Rear Adm. John Polowczyk listen during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, April 13, 2020, in Washington.
Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Rear Adm. John Polowczyk listen during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, April 13, 2020, in Washington.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Fauci has received criticism from some Americans, who see him as the figurehead of the federal coronavirus response, but Cassidy said he fully supports Fauci in his role on the task force.

"Why do we see people, strong supporters of the president, vilifying the health expert that the president himself has said that he values and is using to help make his decisions?" Karl asked.

Cassidy said he senses a disconnect between parts of the nation as some reopen and others continue with tighter restrictions. It's not a one size fits all solution, he said.

"I do think there has to be an understanding, the same understanding that Fauci has of himself, that our knowledge is limited and we must work through these decisions together as a scientific community, a political community, as a national community, that he should not be the fault, if you will, and only he depended upon. So there is a tension there, which Fauci recognizes," Cassidy said.

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