US coronavirus czar Anthony Fauci has again butted heads with Republican senator (and fellow doctor) Rand Paul over the government’s mask mandates. Paul got under Fauci’s skin by denouncing current mask rules as “theater.”
The Kentucky senator demanded Fauci explain why Americans who’d already been sick with Covid-19 and recovered, or received the vaccine should be “wearing masks well into 2022” during a Senate hearing on Thursday. Insisting there “no scientific studies arguing or proving that infection with Covid does not create immunity,” Paul demanded the doctor cite “specific studies” to bolster his claims that “everyone” should wear a mask (or two masks, as Fauci’s trend-setting television appearances have encouraged).
“If [recovered and vaccinated people are] not spreading the infection, isn’t [wearing a mask] just theatre?” the senator queried, arguing that as of last fall, just five of the 38 million confirmed cases of the virus were believed to be reinfections.
After an uneasy pause, Fauci dismissed the notion that vaccinated people double-masking was just for show, arguing even vaccinated Americans would be helpless in the face of a South African Covid-19 variant that has recently emerged. However, while the South African variant has shown itself to be more resistant to the AstraZeneca vaccine, individuals vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech jabs appear to retain whatever benefits they would otherwise have received from the shots.
As Fauci attempted to talk up the ferocity of the South African variant, which has not been shown to be any more infectious or harmful to the patient than any of the other viral variants, Paul accused him of making policy based on conjecture – all but suggesting that new strains would slip into the country and begin infecting helpless vaccinated Americans willy-nilly, undoing all the hard work the government’s vaccination campaign had accomplished and returning Americans to square one if they didn’t wear their masks.
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Such a claim would seem to run contrary to the US government line suggesting Americans should get vaccinated as soon as humanly possible, an issue Paul took care to point out. “You want to get rid of vaccine hesitancy? Tell them they can quit wearing their mask after they get the vaccine!” he explained.
You want people to get the vaccine? Give them a reward instead of telling ‘em that the nanny state’s going to be there for three more years and you’ve got to wear a mask forever!
“If you already have immunity, you’re wearing a mask to give comfort to others. You’re not wearing a mask because of any science,” the senator concluded. Fauci icily reiterated that he “totally disagreed” after the Republican accused him of “parad[ing] around in two masks for show.”
Even though Fauci agreed it was unlikely someone would get infected with the original strain, he once again argued that “we in our country now have variants.”
When you talk about reinfection and you don’t keep in the concept of variants, that’s an entirely different ballgame. That’s a good reason for a mask.
While Fauci and his media cheerleaders have a habit of dismissing Paul’s criticisms out of hand as the meaningless opinions of a layperson, the Kentucky senator is also a doctor, though a trained ophthalmologist rather than an immunologist.
Some watching the latest Fauci-vs-Paul battle on social media questioned the seriousness of the latest viral “variant,” implying that these new strains were little more than paper tigers whose role was to enter epidemiological stage right just in time to keep the population frightened for a few more months.
If Fauci’s concern is variants, why has he not recommended closing borders & a travel ban?
— Catherine (@cateliseh) March 18, 2021
Paul was infected with the virus a year ago and has argued he is now immune, pointing to the almost nonexistent rate of reinfection among those recovered from the virus. Fauci received the Moderna vaccine in January. While he has become a vehement defender of face coverings, the Biden administration’s top health advisor initially urged Americans not to wear them, suggesting last February that the protection they offered was largely illusory and urging ordinary people to leave them on the shelves so that they would be available for the healthcare workers who needed them.
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