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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., clashed with Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday during a Senate Health Committee hearing, telling the public health official he is not the “end all” when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic while pressing him for information about immunity for those who have beaten the disease and the possibility of schools reopening.
In one of the more tense moments of Tuesday’s hearing, Paul – the only U.S. senator to have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 – said the public health response to the pandemic has been riddled with “wrong prediction after wrong prediction” and that Fauci should not be the one making decisions on issues outside his purview.
“The history of this will be wrong prediction after wrong prediction after wrong prediction,” 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 one person who gets to make a prediction,” Paul added, specifically mentioning decisions about when students can return to classes at their schools.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the federal government’s most visible faces during the public health crisis, balked at Paul calling him the “end all” and said his recommendations do not extend beyond the realm of science and public health.
“I have never made myself out to be the end all,” Fauci said via videoconference from his office at the NIAID. "I'm a scientist, a physician and a public health official, I give advice, according to the best scientific evidence.”
He added: “I don't give advice about economic things … anything other than public health.”
Following up on Paul’s question about reopening schools come fall, Fauci said that there is still much that researchers don’t know about the novel coronavirus and the country should not be “cavalier” in reopening institutions too quickly.
“We don't know everything about this virus … especially when it comes to children,” Fauci said. “We ought to be careful and not cavalier.”
Paul – who is an ophthalmologist – also argued that people who have had the virus and recovered are now immune from contracting it again. This has been a frequent claim from the Kentucky Republican and was his main argument for why he did not wear a face mask when Senate returned to session last week.
While it is unclear if people who have been infected with the coronavirus develop full immunity to the disease, most scientists agree that the coronavirus should act like others and people will develop antibodies to it once they have recovered from an infection.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Fauci noted that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 likely have a “degree of protection,” he added that there is no long-term study of this phenomenon to understand if that is actually true.