Republican Rep. Jim Jordan and the nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci got into a heated exchange Thursday over the country's COVID-19 mitigation measures, which ended with Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters telling Jordan to "shut your mouth."
During a House subcommittee hearing about federal government's response to the pandemic, Jordan, an Ohio conservative, asked Fauci when the nation can begin relaxing physical distancing measures and mask-wearing -- posing it as a question as to when Americans will regain their freedom and liberties.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, started to respond that the time will be when the United States has more Americans vaccinated and has a level of coronavirus infection that is low enough that it's "no longer a threat."
Jordan then interrupted Fauci, asking for a specific number.
"We had 15 days of 'slow the spread' turn into one year of lost liberty," Jordan said. "What metrics, what measures, what has to happen before Americans get more freedoms back?"
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"You're indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to the hospital," Fauci countered. "This will end, for sure, when we get the level of infection very low. It is now at such a high level, there is a threat again of major surges."
Fauci later said to Jordan, "You're making this a personal thing and it isn't."
"It's not a personal thing," Jordan fired back.
"No, you are," Fauci said, sounding exasperated. "That is exactly what you're doing."
Fauci defended his recommendations as being consistent and based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidance.
"Right now, we have about 60,000 infections a day, which is a very large risk for resurge. We're not talking about liberties. We're talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans," said Fauci, who later said his "best estimate" would be to have the number of infections per day to be "well below" 10,000 a day.
The back-and-forth between Fauci and Jordan -- who have clashed before -- continued for a few minutes until the subcommittee chair, Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, announced that Jordan's time expired.
When Jordan tried to continue questioning Fauci, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters interjected from across the room.
"You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth," she told Jordan.
Later in the hearing, when Jordan asked Fauci the same questions and griped whether Americans would be wearing masks two years from now, Fauci told the congressman he was "ranting."
Thursday's hearing was to examine the Biden administration's progress on vaccines with the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and the chief science officer of the COVID-19 response Dr. David Kessler also as witnesses.
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