Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) found himself in a heated exchange with Dr. Anthony Fauci during a Senate Health Committee hearing on Wednesday, as the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases was pressed on COVID-19 restrictions in the country.
When Paul compared high rates of COVID-19 cases in New York and New Jersey early into the pandemic to Sweden, which avoided instituting a widespread shutdown, he criticized Fauci for his mitigation recommendations, which included halting sports games and closing restaurants and movie theaters that “have led to this economic lockdown.”
“Our death rate is essentially worse than Sweden, equivalent to the less-developed world that is unable to do any of the things that you’ve been promoting,” Paul said. The senator asked Fauci whether he has any second thoughts about the strict measures imposed in the U.S.
Fauci first replied that he’d “be happy at a different time to sit down and go over detail,” but told Paul that he had said “a lot of different things.”
Fauci went on to point out the many differences between the U.S. and Sweden, which includes how Sweden’s COVID-19 fatality rate is worse compared to other Scandinavian countries that implemented pandemic-related restrictions, and argued that he doesn’t think “it’s appropriate to compare Sweden to us.”
Fauci added that he does not regret his past assertion that the only way the U.S. could stop the “explosion” of COVID-19 cases was by “shutting down,” which he clarified as meaning social distancing protocols Americans have become familiar with over the past six months.
Paul then attempted to throw Fauci under the bus for being a “big fan” of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the state’s shutdown even though it was the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.
“You’ve lauded New York for their policy. New York has had the highest death rate in the world,” Paul told Fauci. “How can we possibly be jumping up and saying, ‘Oh, Governor Cuomo did a great job’?”
Fauci hit back, saying that Paul “misconstrued that” and that Paul has “done that repetitively in the past.”
Fauci acknowledged that New York “got hit very badly and they made some mistakes” early on, but now the state’s positivity rate has decreased to 1% or less thanks to complying with guidelines that the White House coronavirus task force outlined.
Paul then interjected by suggesting that New Yorkers have “developed enough community immunity that they’re no longer having the pandemic because they have enough immunity in New York City to actually stop.”
Fauci fired back that he “challenge(s) that” before Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) attempted to interject.
However, Fauci told Alexander that he would like to continue his remarks to Paul “because this happens with Senator Rand all the time.”
Fauci then went back to schooling Paul.
“You are not listening to what the director of the CDC said that in New York (the infection rate is) about 22%,” Fauci said, pointing to CDC Director Robert Redfield’s remarks earlier in the Senate hearing. “If you believe 22% is herd immunity I believe you’re alone in that.”
Watch the exchange below:
Dr. Anthony Fauci to Senator @RandPaul: "I challenge that Senator…Please sir, I would like to be able to do this, because this happens with Senator Rand all the time. You are not listening to what the Director of the CDC said." pic.twitter.com/plfzNH2iLO
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 23, 2020