Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday criticized Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, over his cautious assessments on the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that he should be providing “more optimism” to the American public.
“We just need more optimism. There is good news out there, and we’re not getting it,” Paul said as Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Paul, who has voiced issues with plans to close schools and businesses in the past, argued that the U.S. response to a pandemic should not be beholden to a small group of health experts. He also said that one man’s recommendations should not be “foisted” upon the entire nation and claimed that health officials should show more caution in their prognostications.
“We need to not be so presumptuous that we know everything,” Paul said as he pointed to evidence that he claimed showed reopening schools in the fall could be done safely. “When are we going to tell the people the truth, that it’s OK to bring our kids school?”
Paul also zeroed in on recent comments Fauci made about restarting sporting events and herd immunity, asserting that “we shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best for everyone.”
The comments marked the second time that Paul has targeted Fauci during a congressional hearing over the recommendations he’s made about slowing the coronavirus, which has infected more than 2.6 million people in the U.S. and accounted for roughly 126,000 deaths.
In May, Paul told Fauci that he should “have a little bit of humility” because he didn’t know what was best for the economy.
In response to Paul’s comments on Tuesday, Fauci said that he agreed with much of what senator said about officials conveying opinions without data. But he noted that “sometimes you have to make extrapolations because you’re in a position where you need to at least give some sort of recommendation.”
“I feel very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school. So I think we are in lock agreement with that,” Fauci said, maintaining that he’s never made a judgement on whether sports leagues should resume.
He noted that officials from sports leagues have asked him for information about the spread of the virus, saying that sometimes his comments have been misinterpreted in the press.
“It gets interpreted as I’m saying, ‘You can’t play this sport.’ I agree with you. I am completely unqualified to tell you whether you can play a sport or not,” Fauci said Tuesday. “The only thing that I can do is to the best of my ability is give you the facts and the evidence associated with what I know about this outbreak.”
The exchange on Capitol Hill between Fauci and Paul comes as the U.S. experiences a resurgence in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations stemming from the disease, causing multiple states to pause reopening plans.
The U.S. is now recording about 40,000 new cases per day, surpassing previous records set in April.
During testimony, Fauci warned that the country was headed in the “wrong direction” and that the U.S. could soon see 100,000 new cases per day if it did not control the outbreak.
“We need to do something about that, and we need to do it very quickly,” said Fauci.