Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ripped Dr. Anthony Fauci on Fox News Tuesday, demanding that the "bureaucrat" provide scientific evidence that double masking works or that people who have already been vaccinated are at major risk from getting sick with a COVID-19 variant if they don't wear masks.
"I just think he's a government bureaucrat. This is a guy who's spent his whole life working for government and he's never met an edict — look, he's a popular guy now, all over CNN every minute. I don't know how he gets any work done because he's on television nonstop," Paul said. "But all he wants to do is tell you what you can't do. But then you ask him for the science and he says, 'what if?' He says, 'maybe one of these variants might not respond to the vaccine.'"
"But it turns out the preponderance of scientific evidence now shows that the vaccines do cover the variants," Paul added. "On the rare occasion that someone's gotten sick after a vaccine, they've been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic."
"He wants you to walk around like a zombie breathing through three different masks. There's no study on wearing two masks. There are studies showing cloth masks don't work and I don't hear him saying that."
Last week, Paul clashed with Fauci, the White House's top adviser on COVID-19, over the question of whether an individual who has been vaccinated against the virus or who already contracted it and has recovered needs to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Paul argued that science demonstrates there's no major risk of reinfection for vaccinated individuals, so they should be free to return to normal life. Fauci strongly disagreed, warning that new variants of COVID-19 pose an unknown risk even to people who've recovered from the virus already, so masks and social distancing are still needed as a precaution.
On Fox News Wednesday, Paul told host Neil Cavuto that the government needs to provide scientific evidence that vaccinated people are at risk of reinfection before mandating continued coronavirus restrictions.
"I think the burden should be on government. If the government's going to tell you you can't go anywhere unless you're wearing a mask, they should tell you why and they should present the evidence," Paul said.
He added: "The government needs to prove and show me a study that says that those people are still transmitting the disease and that they are a problem to public health. What Dr. Fauci said is they might be. He's sort of like, 'What if they could spread the disease?' Well, that sounds to me like conjecture."
The senator said that without evidence to back up the government's recommendations, mandates about mask-wearing and social distancing are "emotionalism and fear-mongering."
On Friday, Fauci was interviewed on CBS about the exchange he had with Paul in the Senate, and he reiterated his complete disagreement with Paul.
"Sen. Paul has this message that we don't need masks, which goes against just about everything we know about how to prevent spread of the virus," Fauci said.
"He was saying if you've been infected, or you've been vaccinated, don't wear a mask — which is completely against all public health tenets," he continued. "So he's dead wrong. I mean, I don't have anything personally against him. But he's just quite frankly incorrect."
Previously, Fauci warned that Americans may need to continue wearing masks into 2022 because doctors believe vaccinated people could potentially spread COVID, even if they're protected against the symptoms of it.
"What I say to Dr. Fauci is show me that the variants are escaping it," Paul countered on Fox News. "Show me that there's this mass contagion going on from people being reinfected who have been vaccinated or who have it again. I will reassess. I will reassess and consider the data, but so far all he's telling me is his opinion. And really their opinion is — look, they had another one of these vaccine doctors on television who's like, 'Oh, it's about civility.' Well, civility is not science! For goodness sake, show us some evidence to back up these mandates!"
Paul highlighted the apparent absurdity of some coronavirus restrictions, like requirements to wear a mask in restaurants while waiting for a table but not while seated.
"How many people watching this program have walked into a restaurant, put their mask on for 10 feet and seen 400 people look up at you who are all not wearing their masks, all in an enclosure breathing? Do you think those 10 steps of wearing a mask meant anything? That's non-science. That basically is someone expressing some sort of form of civility but has nothing to do with science," Paul said.
Paul offered seating on airplanes as another example of coronavirus restrictions that don't make sense.
"I've been sitting next to some guy three inches from me the whole time but now we're going to use science and he has to go six feet in front of me to get off the plane. None of this is based on science, it's all emotionalism, and we're going to be here forever if we keep listening to these people," he contended.
"The simple fact is if you've been vaccinated and you're two weeks out from your second [shot], throw your mask away and do what you want, because Dr. Fauci is overkill on all of this."