Dr. Anthony Fauci says variants make continued mask use valuable
(NEXSTAR) – At a Senate hearing Thursday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) accused Dr. Anthony Fauci — the nation’s top infectious disease expert — of perpetuating “nanny state” policies that unnecessarily prolong mask use among vaccinated Americans.
Kentucky’s junior senator — and ophthalmologist prior to entering politics — has repeatedly clashed with Fauci over coronavirus guidelines. Paul was infected with the virus in 2020 and says there is no need for vaccinated and previously infected individuals to continue public mask use. On Thursday he directly called out Fauci for continuing to wear a mask despite receiving a vaccine.
“What studies do you have that people that have had the vaccine or have had the infection are spreading the infection? If they’re not spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?” questioned Paul.
“Here we go again with the theater,” retorted Fauci.
Fauci said the circulation of variants makes continued mask use valuable, even if there are no prevalent variants in the United States today.
“You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show,” said Paul, who repeatedly interrupted Fauci. “There’s a virtually zero-percent chance you are going to get it.”
Fauci said he disagrees and said the existing antibodies are specific to a viral strain and that those protections diminish in variants, which have continued to emerge around the globe in recent months. Fauci said, in that context, continued mask use is appropriate.
“We’re not dealing with a static situation with the same virus,” said Fauci.
More than 73.6 million people, or 22.2% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 39 million people, or 12% of the population, have completed their vaccination.
The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 63,846 on March 3 to 54,821 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 1,846 on March 3 to 1,230 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.