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'You are not listening.’ Anthony Fauci challenges Sen. Rand Paul on criticism of New York coronavirus measures

Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci.Graeme Jennings/Associated Press

The nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Wednesday battled Senator Rand Paul during a Senate hearing on the progress of the coronavirus vaccine, with Fauci accusing Paul of repeatedly misconstruing the facts around stay-at-home orders.

Paul asked Fauci why he had praised New York’s efforts to flatten the curve during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee committee hearing on Wednesday on the federal coronavirus response.

“New York had the highest death rate in the world, how can we possibly be jumping up and down and saying, ‘oh, Governor Cuomo did a great job.’ He had the worst death rate in the world,” Paul, a Republican, said.

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“No, you misconstrued that Senator, and you’ve done that repetitively in the past. They got hit very badly, they made some mistakes. Right now if you look at what’s going on right now the things that are going on in New York to get their test positivity 1 percent or less, is because they are looking at the guidelines that we have put together from the task force of the four of five things of masks, social distancing, outdoors more than indoors, avoiding crowds, and washing hands,” Fauci said.

“Or they’ve developed enough community immunity that they’re no longer having the pandemic because they have enough immunity in New York City to actually stop it,” Paul responded.

“I challenge that, Senator.” Fauci interjected, his voice rising as he asked for more time to complete his response. “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, that in New York it’s about 22 percent [who have antibodies]. If you believe 22 percent is herd immunity, I believe you are alone in that.”

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Paul has frequently castigated Fauci during Senate hearings for his support of stay-at-home and social distancing measures, and he suggested on Wednesday that state governments or indeed nations are simply not capable of “altering the course of an infectious disease” through such measures.

Wednesday’s hearing also touched on vaccines, with Fauci and other federal officials expressing hope that they would soon know whether they have a working vaccine, while promising that no corners will be cut in its development.

“We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that,” Fauci said.

Watch the full exchange:



Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.