Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) may have a medical degree, but he’s an ophthalmologist with little expertise in infectious diseases that don’t involve a cornea or retina.
Yet, there he was today at a hearing of the Senate Health Committee spouting off with his limited knowledge about why it should be safe to send Amerca’s children back to school before either an effective treatment or vaccine is available to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, all while three of the nation’s leading health officials were all testifying to the effect that “we are not out of the woods yet,” as Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the committee.
The fact that those three senior federal medical experts — as well as the committee’s chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — were all participating in the hearing remotely from quarantine due to their exposure to confirmed positive carriers of the coronavirus should have been enough proof of the obvious dangers of the “invisible enemy,” as Donald Trump likes to call it, but the libertarian-leaning Senator Paul was intent on dismissing medical fears about re-opening schools and businesses, despite the likelihood of that strategy leading to further spread of the virus and a higher death toll.
Senator Paul reserved his greatest contempt for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who had earlier in his testimony before the panel warned that “the consequences could be really serious” if the country opens prematurely.
While that verbiage wasn’t quite as strong as the words he used the previous evening when describing the gist of what he would say to the panel — “needless suffering and death” were the words he used to describe the results of everyone leaving their homes and returning to work before the virus is further contained — it was enough to earn Dr.Fauci a reprimand from Senator Paul, who questioned the scientist’s humility and tried to put him in what the senator thought was his proper place.
The context was Senator Paul’s assertion that children are less likely to contract fatal cases of COVID-19 than adults are.
“Shouldn’t we at least be discussing what the mortality of children is?”, Senator Paul asked Dr. Fauci, claiming that the death toll among the young “approaches zero.”
The senator then went on to gaslight the committee and those watching the proceedings by making factually erroneous claims about the relative spread of the disease in different areas of the country.
“We never reached any sort of pandemic levels in Kentucky and other [rural] states,” Paul insisted. “Outside of New England, we’ve had a relatively benign course for this virus nationwide.”
Tell that to those whose family members and friends have succumbed to the virus, Senator Paul. It was a comment that drew a quick response from Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) who was seemingly shocked that someone with a medical degree could be so ignorant and misleading.
Warren County, Kentucky – where Rand Paul lives – has more COVID-19 cases per capita than 51 of the 67 counties in New England states.
Senator Paul is wrong and the ignorant message he is peddling is dangerous. There is no special immunity to this virus based on where you live. https://t.co/l9u5RBYR2J
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) May 12, 2020
Paul wasn’t through with Dr. Fauci quite yet. He revealed his own top priority in his next comment to the infectious disease expert, and — surprise, surprise, surprise — it had nothing to do with saving people’s lives and everything to do with money, money, money.
“I think we ought to have a little humility in our belief we know what’s best for the economy,” Paul said to Fauci. “As much as I respect you Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all. I don’t think you get to make a decision.”
Go back to your little laboratory and leave this heavy economic lifting to the big boys, Senator Paul may as well have said. What he did add was that his interpretation of “the facts’ was that there would be no surge in cases coming from lifting existing restrictions, pulling that assertion straight from his hind nether-quarters.
“I think it’s a huge mistake if we don’t open the schools in the fall,” Paul said, despite the fact that Dr. Fauci never mentioned anything about that particular topic.
Dr. Fauci asked the committee chair to allow him the time to respond to Senator Paul’s character assassination and came back with a devastating reply.
“I have never made myself out to be the ‘end all’ and only voice in this,” Fauci responded. “I’m a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I don’t give advice about economic things, I don’t give advice about anything other than public health,” he reminded the committee.
“You used the word that we should be ‘humble’ about what we don’t know. And I think that falls under the fact that we don’t know everything about this virus, and we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children,” Dr. Fauci continued.
“Because the more and more we learn, we’re seeing things about what this virus can do, that we didn’t see from the studies in China, or in Europe. For example, right now, children presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, who actually have a very strange inflammatory syndrome, very similar to Kawasaki Syndrome,” he said, referencing some highly unusual cases, including at least one fatality, among children in New York.
Dr. Fauci concluded his response to Senator Paul’s showboating rant with a warning that wound up doing to the senator what Paul had intended his remarks to the epidemiologist to achieve: putting him in his proper place and instilling some much-needed humility into the senator’s psyche.
“I think we better be careful that we’re not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” Fauci admonished.
You can watch the exchange between Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci at today’s Senate Health Committee hearing in the video clip below.
Sen. Rand Paul: "I don't think you're the end all. I don't think you're the one person that gets to make a decision."
Dr. Anthony Fauci: "I have never made myself out to be the end all and only voice in this. I'm a scientist, a physician and a public health official." pic.twitter.com/Nqlg3zOqn3
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 12, 2020
Stay safe. Stay at home. Don’t sacrifice your health and potentially your life by going back to work to make business owners rich at your expense without safety guarantees and complete medical coverage and income continuance if you do fall ill.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.