After Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Tuesday that government public health experts should be more humble in their advice to lawmakers, the government’s top infectious disease authority said he never claimed to be the “end-all” authority about COVID-19 policy.
“I have never made myself out to be the end-all and ultimate voice on this,” Dr. Antony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, responded to a sour note from Paul.
The Kentucky senator had gone on a monologue about virus response around the country and around the world.
“We’re opening up a lot of economies around the U.S. and I hope that people who are predicting doom and gloom and who are saying, ‘We can’t do this, there’s going to be a surge,’ will admit that they were wrong if there isn’t a surge, because I think that’s what’s going to happen,'” Paul said.
“Outside of New England,” Paul added, “we’ve had a relatively benign course for this virus nationwide, and I think the one-size-fits-all, that we’re going to have a national strategy and nobody’s going to go to school, is kind of ridiculous.”
The power over COVID-19 health policy, Paul said, “needs to be dispersed because people make wrong predictions. And really the history of this, when we look back, will be of wrong prediction after wrong prediction after wrong prediction.”
“I think we ought to have a little bit of humility in our belief that we know what’s best for the economy,” Paul said. “And as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all, I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make a decision. We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side who are saying there’s not going to be a surge and that we can safely open the economy.”
Fauci responded by saying that he had never presumed the title Paul used for him.
“I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only voice in this,” he said. “I’m a scientist, a physician, and a public health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence.”
Other officials, Fauci said, are in a position to give advice about reopening the country economically. But, he said, “I don’t give advice about economic things. I don’t give advice about anything other than public health.”
He also cautioned against the assumption that the virus did not affect children, pointing to a “very strange inflammatory syndrome” presenting in children recently; Paul had pointed to the low mortality rates among children in New York City’s statistics.
“We’d better be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” Fauci said.