Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, thoroughly embarrassed Republican Senator Rand Paul during a Senate testimony Wednesday after Paul suggested that New York’s covid-19 low infection rate is due to herd immunity. Fauci—in his raspy Brooklyn brogue—politely called out the Senator’s idiocy.
“You’ve lauded New York for their policy,” Paul said during the Senate Health Committee hearing about the nation’s pandemic 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.”
“No, you’ve misconstrued that, Senator, and you’ve done that repetitively in the past,” Fauci said. “Right now... the things that are going on in New York to get their test positivity one percent or less is because they’re looking at the guidelines we have put together from the task force... masks, social distancing, outdoors more than indoors, avoiding crowds, and washing hands.”
“Or,” Paul interrupted. “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.”
Fauci was about to respond when he was interrupted by the committee, but Fauci insisted on replying, saying, “This happens with Senator Rand [Paul] all the time.”
He continued: “You are not listening to what the director of the CDC said. That in New York—it’s about 22 percent—if you believe 22 percent is herd immunity, I believe you’re alone in that.”
Paul went on to challenge Fauci about stats regarding “pre-existing immunity” of those who have “cross-reactivity.” Fauci deftly debunked this theory as well.
Fauci’s characterization of Paul as a man reluctant to face facts about covid-19 is apt: Paul famously contracted covid-19 in March, and continued to use the Senate gym and pool while awaiting his test results. But having covid-19 didn’t stop him delaying a covid-19 relief bill vote in spring, griping about government overreach regarding mask mandates, and suggesting that schools open en-masse and only impose mask-wearing for “at-risk” populations. Of course, anyone is at risk of contracting covid-19 and passing it on to more vulnerable people, a fact that Paul—a medical doctor—should be well acquainted with by now. Instead, Paul is obsessed with herd immunity and has been from the dawn of the pandemic’s spread.
In May, Paul tweeted, “Modern medicine shows us that immunity is based on having antibodies. Why do they think medicine is trying so hard to get a coronavirus vaccine? Immunity.” He added, “To the approximately 2 million New Yorkers and others who got coronavirus and survived, don’t let these busybodies tell you that you don’t have immunity. They want you to be lemmings and do as THEY see fit. RESIST!”
While the antibodies developed by those who have recovered from covid-19 offer protection from the virus, the extent of their effectiveness—and whether it’s possible to contract covid-19 again—is unclear. But this hasn’t stopped Paul from proselytizing the joys of herd immunity, even after more than 200,000 Americans have died from covid-19.
Paul went on to ask Fauci if he was willing to look at the data showing that countries who have done “very little,” like Sweden, have managed to have low covid-19 death rates.
“Compare Sweden’s death rate to other comparable Scandinavian countries,” Fauci said. “It’s worse. So I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare Sweden with us.”
Additionally, there is no proof that Sweden’s herd immunity approach actually worked.
Fauci said that he’s humble enough to acknowledge that mistakes were made in the early days of the pandemic, explaining they were navigating a novel virus off the little information they had to work with. “As new data comes, you make different recommendations,” Fauci said.
Sen. Paul should take a slice of humble pie himself, especially after getting so demolished by the nation’s leading covid-19 expert on national television. But don’t count on it.