Rand Paul has dedicated much of his time during the coronavirus pandemic to a singular mission: discrediting Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The Republican senator from Kentucky was at it again on Wednesday, using a hearing on Capitol Hill to once again go at Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force.
Paul: “Do you have any second thoughts about your mitigation recommendations considering the evidence that despite all of the things we have done in the US, our death rate is essentially worse than Sweden, equivalent to the less-developed world that is unable to do any of the things you’ve been promoting? Do you have any second thoughts? Are you willing to look at the data that countries that did very little actually have a lower death rate than the United States?”
Fauci: “You know, senator, I’d be happy at a different time to sit down and go over details. You’ve said a lot of different things. … Compare Sweden’s death rate to other comparable Scandinavian countries. It’s worse.”
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Sweden’s mortality rate from Covid-19 is roughly 57 people per 100,000. Norway, which borders Sweden, has a mortality rate of five people per 100,000. Finland? Just over six people per 100,000.
So Paul is wrong and Fauci is right. But that didn’t stop the senator!
“You been a big fan of Cuomo and the shutdown of New York,” he said to Fauci. “You’ve lauded New York for their policy. New York had the highest death rate in the world.”
Paul also suggested that New York City had achieved a kind of “community immunity” because so many people had the virus, as explanation for why its current case load and death rate were so low – not the mitigation tactics offered by Facui like mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing.
“I challenge that,” responded Fauci, adding: “This happens with Senator Rand all the time. You are not listening to what the director of the CDC said. … If you believe 22% is herd immunity, I believe you are alone in that.”
Again, Paul is wrong and Fauci is right.
In early May, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that 21% of those tested the previous week in New York City had shown Covid-19 antibodies in their systems, a finding that suggested many more people had been exposed – and had immune reactions – than the hospitalization and death rates showed.
But even the most optimistic view of herd immunity is that 60% of the public would have to possess Covid antibodies in order for the disease to stop its spread without appropriate mitigation efforts. Neither New York nor the rest of the country is anywhere near that number.
Regardless of his swings and misses on Wednesday, if past is prologue, Paul is going to keep going after Fauci.
At a congressional hearing in May, Paul openly questioned Fauci’s expertise when it came to decisions about reopening states’ economies.
“I think we ought to have a little bit of humility in our belief that we know what’s best for the economy, and as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all,” Paul said. “I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make the decision. We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side saying there’s not going to be a surge and then we can safely open the economy. And the facts will bear this out.”
Then there was this from a July Senate hearing. “Dr. Fauci, every day we seem to hear from you things we can’t do,” Paul said. “It’s important to realize that if society meekly submits to an expert and that expert is wrong, a great deal of harm may occur. Take, for example, government experts who continue to call for schools and day care to stay closed or that recommend restrictions that make it impossible for a school to function.”
CNN fact-checked that claim from Paul and, this will stun you, he’s not right.
And let’s not forget that Paul, who had Covid-19 himself, cast skepticism on the need for the public to get the eventual vaccine for the virus.
“I’m kind of pro-vaccine, but also pro-freedom,” Paul said in mid-July. “Look, there’s millions of us like me now who are immune. Are they going to hold me down and stick a needle in my arm? They probably will, because these people believe in the idea they are so right and that their cause is so righteous that they can inflict it on others.”
Did I mention that Paul is a medical doctor? And therefore should have some higher bar for pushing out data that is misleading at best?
So, yeah. That’s where we are in month six of our fight against the coronavirus. Which is utterly depressing.