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GOP senator directly asks Fauci: 'Did we do the right thing in shutting down society?'


SHAWN THEW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana on Tuesday directly asked White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci whether shutting down society during the COVID-19 pandemic was the "right thing," and whether he would change the U.S. pandemic response if he had a do-over.

"In hindsight, knowing what you know now, had you known it then, did we do the right thing in shutting down society?" Kennedy asked of Fauci, who was called to testify before a Senate appropriations subcommittee on the National Institute of Health's budget.

"Would we have been better off saying, no we're going to protect the vulnerable, the elderly, the people who are immunocompromised, and we're going to isolate them but have the rest of American society — churches, businesses, universities, schools — go on about their business while at the same time providing them guidance about how to protect themselves?"

In his answer, Fauci suggested he would change nothing. He began by rejecting Kennedy's premise that society is able to identify who is especially vulnerable to the coronavirus and that it can separate them from the rest of the population.

"I think there's a misperception about who the vulnerable are. There are many, many more vulnerables in society," Fauci said.

"I think that society is very heterogeneous. And it isn't a question of shutting down completely, Senator, because we never shut down completely. If you do shut down a society you do it for a purpose. And the purpose is at that period of time when you're protecting people from interaction that you get as many people vaccinated as you possibly can," he continued.

Unsatisfied, Kennedy redirected by asking if Fauci would have changed anything in hindsight.

"It depends on when we got the vaccine," Fauci said. "Before the availability of vaccine, when we had no other situation, I would try to protect people by making sure that they masked and they kept themselves separated from this congregant indoor settings, that's what I would do in the absence of a vaccine.

"But right now, I think it's important, looking forward we still only have 66% of the total population vaccinated and less than half of those are boosted. I think we can approach what we are likely going to be seeing and are seeing now with an increase in surges, with the possibility of a surge in the fall and winter, one of the real things we can all do as a nation is pull together and try to get our people vaccinated and those who are eligible to be boosted, boosted."

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