Dr. Anthony Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Wednesday publicly tussled during a Senate hearing on the nation’s coronavirus response when Paul tried to argue that the same number of Americans would have died of the virus even if states hadn’t enforced shutdown measures.

Paul during the hearing claimed that COVID-19 cases might not be rising in New York because of herd immunity, to which Fauci retorted: “I challenge that, senator. … You are not listening to what the director of the CDC said, that in New York (herd immunity) it’s about 22 percent. If you believe 22 percent is herd immunity, I believe you’re alone in that.”

Paul has frequently criticized lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and at the hearing told Fauci it was important “that we the people simply not acquiesce to authoritarian mandates on our behavior without first making the nanny state prove their hypothesis. What we do know is that New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and Rhode Island still allowed the highest death rates in the world.”

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that while New York got hit “pretty badly” and “made some mistakes,” it managed to bring its positivity rate down to about 1 percent because residents there have followed CDC recommendations of wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, and staying outdoors more than indoors.

The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. is now more than 200,000 as the nation continues to lead the world in both cases and fatalities.

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