“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. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence.”

That’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, responding Tuesday to a rebuke by Sen. Rand Paul that was essentially: Who are you to tell us what to do?

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared via video conference in a Senate committee hearing about reopening the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Read: Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are likely higher than the official tally, Dr. Fauci tells Senate committee

Fauci was challenged by Paul, a Kentucky Republican who had been a vocal advocate of reopening businesses now. In the hearing, Fauci warned that reopening too soon could lead to more outbreaks and unnecessary deaths.

“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 a decision. We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side saying there’s not going to be a surge, that we can safely reopen the economy, and the facts will bear this out.”

“I don’t give advice about anything other than public health,” Fauci responded, noting that other people make the economic decisions.

Paul said he does not expect a surge in COVID-19 cases in rural states like his. Kentucky currently has about 6,700 confirmed cases, with more than 300 deaths, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Comparatively, Oregon — which has roughly the same population as Kentucky but has had stricter and longer stay-at-home orders — has about 3,300 cases and 130 deaths, according to state data.

Paul also said schools should resume, since children appear to be less affected by the virus.

Fauci urged caution on that, too.

“We really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children, because the more and more we learn, we’re seeing things the virus can do that we didn’t see from the studies in China or in Europe,” he said. “I think we better be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of COVID-19.

“You’re right, in the numbers that children, in general, do much, much better than adults and the elderly, and particularly those with underlying conditions. But I am very careful and hopefully humble that I don’t know everything about this disease, and that’s why I’m very reserved in making broad predictions,” Fauci said.


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