The nation’s top infectious disease expert and Representative Jim Jordan engaged in a heated exchange during a congressional hearing on Thursday over when Americans will be able to stop engaging in public health measures that help prevent the spread of COVID-19, with Dr. Anthony Fauci at one point telling Jordan: “You’re ranting again.”
During a House subcommittee hearing on the end of the COVID-19 pandemic that involved testimony from a number of public health officials, the Ohio Republican repeatedly pressed Fauci on what metric COVID-19 infections in the United States would have to reach before Americans can stop wearing masks and social distancing. Jordan repeatedly referred to the loosening of pandemic-related restrictions and recommendations as Americans being able to “get their freedom back.”
When Fauci began answering the question, Jordan interrupted him and pressed Fauci to “give me a number” of COVID-19 cases that would make it permissible from a public health standpoint to stop engaging in protective measures.
“We had 15 days to slow the spread, it turned into one year of lost liberty, what metrics, what measures, what has to happen before Americans get more freedoms?” Jordan asked.
Fauci began responding that the goal is to continue vaccinating Americans in order to get the level of infection low enough that the virus is no longer a threat, when Jordan interrupted once more.
“What measure?” Jordan asked. “Are we just going to continue this forever? What measure, what standard, what objective, outcome do we have to reach before Americans get their liberties and freedoms back?”
Fauci responded: “You know, you’re indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to the hospital.”
“You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr Fauci?” Jordan asked. “They’ve been assaulted. Their liberties have.”
“I don’t look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan,” Fauci said. “I look at this as a public health thing. I disagree with you.”
“This will end for sure when we get the level of infection very low. It is now at such a high level there’s a threat again of major surge,” Fauci said as Jordan continued interrupting him.
Jordan went on to argue forcefully that Americans’ First Amendment rights have been “completely attacked” and “assaulted” over the past year and described the curfew and mask-wearing measures states have implemented.
As Fauci attempted to speak, Jordan continued talking over him.
“I just want to know, when do Americans get their First Amendment liberties back?” Jordan asked, after arguing that some people have been censored because they disagreed with Fauci.
“I don’t think anything was censored because they felt they couldn’t disagree with me,” Fauci responded. “You’re making this a personal thing, and it isn’t,” Fauci said.
Jordan continued to press Fauci for a specific metrics that would determine when Americans can stop engaging in public health measures or, as he put it, “get their First Amendment liberties back.”
“Right now we have about 60,000 infections a day, which is a very large risk for a surge,” Fauci said. “We’re not talking about liberties, we’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans. That’s what we’re talking about.”
In a separate round of questions, the sparring between Fauci and Jordan continued, with the congressman again pressing Fauci for a specific COVID-19 metric that country should reach before returning to normalcy and allowing Americans to “move on with their lives,” as Jordan put it.
“You’re asking for a number. If I have a number, it would have to be my best estimate, and that would be that the number of infections per day are well below 10,000 per day,” Fauci said. “At that point and up to that point there would be a gradual pulling back of some of the restrictions you’re talking about.”
“Give us an idea. You’ve given us thoughts on all kinds of subjects. You’ve opined on all kinds of issues. Give us your best guess then,” Jordan said.
“I just did,” Fauci responded.
“Are we going to be here in two years from now wearing masks and asking Dr. Fauci the same question?”
“You’re ranting again,” Fauci said, a comment that appeared to hit a nerve with Jordan.
Fauci has engaged in heated discussions during congressional hearings with a number of Republican members of Congress. Last month, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky accused Fauci of wearing a mask “for show” since he had already been vaccinated.
Watch the exchange here: