By Tyler Olson
July 20, 2021
Top government epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul traded accusations of “lying” about gain-of-function research at a Tuesday Senate hearing, continuing the long-running feud between the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director and the Kentucky senator.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky was also asked about continued health measures like mask mandates on public transportation and vaccine mandates for school children.
In his questioning of Fauci, Paul stepped close to the line of accusing Fauci of lying to Congress in previous testimony in which he said that the NIAID had never funded gain-of-function research in China. Citing a paper on research about bat coronaviruses, Paul said that U.S. money had essentially gone to the hazardous and controversial research – an assertion Fauci strongly objected to.
“I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement,” Fauci said. He added that the research Paul referenced was “judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain of function.”
Fauci added: “You do not know what you are talking about quite frankly and I want to say that officially.”
Paul’s response was that the NIH’s judgment “defines… away” work that essentially was gain-of-function.”
“You’re dancing around this because you’re trying to obscure responsibility,” Paul added
Walensky and Fauci – who is President Biden’s top medical adviser – are appearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee. They each emphasized the imporance of vaccines for stopping the delta variant in their opening remarks.
“The message from CDC remains clear… vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” Walensky said.
“The sobering news that you’ve already heard of is the fact that we are not challenged with a very difficult and problematic variant referred to as the Delta variant,” Fauci said. “The fact is that, however… is that our vaccines… are very effective against this variant.”
Wearing a mask indoors with others reduces the risk of both getting & transmitting the virus. We’re requiring masking for everyone while indoors at public settings & businesses, regardless of vaccination status so that we can stop the increased level of transmission we're seeing. pic.twitter.com/xmr77qsmBv
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) July 15, 2021
“We are using the tool of vaccinations,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said, according to MyNorthwest.com. “That’s the ultimate answer to this pandemic. We don’t want to be wearing masks for the next 32 years – vaccines stop this thing dead.”
Asked whether the federal government would continue its mask mandate for travel by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Walensky refused to say whether the current expiration of that requirement will be extended. But she did foreshadow potential complications from the delta variant.
“The discussion about masking on federal – on aviation and ships – is an interagency process not simply with CDC,” Walensky said. “I will say a lot has changed since May 13, as you heard from Dr. Facui we now have a variant circulating in this country that is you knw at the time was less than 3% and is now 83%, and is much more transmissible. So we are continuing those conversations.”
On vaccine mandates for entering grade school, Walensky said “that’s premature at this point” to mandate vaccines for entering grade school. Both she and Fauci cited a lack of clinical trail data in the grade school cohort, in response to questions from Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind.