The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus held a hearing Thursday titled, "Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel: Ending COVID-19," but it erupted into shouting match when Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, pressed Dr. Anthony Fauci on when that end might become a reality in terms of restrictions being lifted.
Jordan got right to the point, noting that Fauci had recently written that it is not yet the time to cease taking precautionary measures such as social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and wearing face masks.
"When is the time?" Jordan asked. "When do Americans get their freedom back?"
"When we get the level of infection in this country low enough that it is not a really high threat," Fauci said. Jordan continued to ask for specifics as far as what level would be deemed low enough.
"What is low enough? Give me a number ... what metrics, what measures, what has to happen before Americans get their freedoms?" he asked.
Fauci replied that his message was to make sure as many Americans as possible get vaccinated quickly "to get the level of infection in this country low that it is no longer a threat."
"That is when," he answered.
Jordan, not satisfied with the response, asked Fauci what determines when that level is reached.
"What outcome do we have to reach before Americans get their liberty and freedoms back?" he asked.
Fauci took issue with Jordan's characterization of the issue as a matter of liberty and freedom instead of a public health crisis where he is trying to keep people from dying.
"You don't think Americans' liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr. Fauci?" Jordan asked, raising his voice. "They've been assaulted!"
"I don't look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan, I look at this as a public health thing," Fauci said. "I disagree with you on that completely."
Jordan noted that the Constitution does not go away during a pandemic. Fauci, raising his own tone, stated that "this will end, for sure, when we get the level of infection very low."
The congressman then listed a number of restrictions such as people being unable or limited in their ability to go to houses of worship, a curfew in Ohio last fall, and restrictions on having guests at their homes. Jordan then pointed to the censoring of a video where physicians disagreed with Fauci's positions, leading Fauci to claim that Jordan was making things personal.
"It's not a personal thing," Jordan claimed, prompting Fauci to yell back, "You are! That is exactly what you're doing."
It was a stark contrast from when the previous member of Congress to speak, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., was questioning Fauci. Waters concluded her time by saying, "Dr. Fauci, I love you."
Fauci went on to say that his recommendations are not personal but are based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance. Jordan then asked "what measures have to be attained" in order for restrictions to be lifted. Fauci claimed he just told him that, but Jordan noted that he never gave a specific answer.
After Jordan's time officially expired, committee Chairman Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said that he will be satisfied when 90% of Congress is vaccinated. This led Jordan to again ask Fauci for a specific standard.
"When? What are the numbers?" he pressed.
"Right now we're at an unacceptably high level," Fauci said. "What you're going to see as more and more people get vaccinated and we get over three million people a day, you're going to see the level of infection come down and down, and gradually there will be more flexibility for doing the things that you're talking about."
Jordan again asked for a specific number. Fauci began to respond, but the next member began to speak, thanking Clyburn.
"I'd like my question answered!" Jordan demanded.
"You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth!" Waters yelled.
"Don't worry about this, we're going to handle this," Clyburn said in response. "I think Mr. Jordan knows me very well, and he knows full well that we're going to handle this."
Jordan thanked Clyburn and the hearing moved forward.