Dr. Anthony Fauci, the often controversial medical head of the White House coronavirus task force gave a dire warning during a Tuesday testimony in front of the Senate Health Committee that spawned a heated exchange with a GOP Senator.
Fauci, who appeared remotely due to concerns that he might have been exposed to the coronavirus, warned that reopening the economy before certain “checkpoints” set up in coronavirus task force’s recovery plan are met could bring “serious” consequences.
“As I have said many times publicly, what we have worked out is a guideline framework for how to open America again,” Fauci said, referencing a set of guidelines the White House has released for states and localities to begin opening their economies. In order to proceed to the first of three stages, states would need to see an uninterrupted decrease in coronavirus cases over a 14-day period.
“Depending on the dynamics of an outbreak in a particular region, state, city or area, that would really determine the speed and the pace with which one does reenter or reopen,” Fauci said. “If some areas – cities states or what have you – jump over those barriers, checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively, and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”
Fauci warned that prematurely lifting coronavirus restrictions closing schools and businesses and limiting travel would lead to “suffering and death” and “turn the clock back instead of going forward.”
Then came the exchange with Sen. Rand Paul – the only U.S. senator to have actually had a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Paul said to Fauci that he is not the “end all” when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic adding that 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 the decisions about when students can return to classes at their schools.
Fauci responded by saying 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. “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.”
Despite the Democrat’s many attempts to bait him into doing so, Fauci did not rip on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
Instead Fauci focused on emphasizing efforts by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop vaccines and other medical means to fight the coronavirus.
“Hopefully our research efforts, together with the other public health efforts, will get us quickly to an end to this terrible ordeal that we are all going through,” Fauci said.
“NIH is focused on developing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, and sensitive, specific, and rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests,” Fauci also said in written remarks submitted to the committee. “These efforts will improve our response to the current pandemic and bolster our preparedness for the next, inevitable emerging disease outbreak”
On one point, Fauci said the government is focusing on several different vaccine candidates, using the hockey term “multiple shots on goal” to describe the increased chances that one would work. Additionally, he said if more than one is successful that would help increase the availability of the vaccines globally.
But, Fauci noted, “there’s no guarantee that a vaccine is going to be effective.”