Editor’s note: In a hearing Thursday held by the House Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, went back and forth with Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Read their full exchange on masks, social distancing, and more.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Dr. Fauci, when is the time? When is the time?
Anthony Fauci: [inaudible]
Jordan: Well, in your written statement, you say, “Now is not the time to pull back on masking, physical distancing, and avoiding congregate settings.” When is the time? When do Americans get their freedom back?
Jordan: Can you put your microphone on, please?
Fauci: When we get the level of infection in this country low enough that it is not a really high threat.
Jordan: What is low enough? Give me a number. What? I mean, we had 15 days to slow the spread turned into one year of lost liberty. What metrics, what measures, what has to happen before Americans [get] their freedoms back?
Fauci: My message, Congressman Jordan, is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can to get the level of infection in this country low, that it is no longer a threat. That is when. And I believe when that happens, you will see—
Jordan: What determines when?
Fauci: I’m sorry.
Jordan: What? What measure? I mean, are we just going to continue this forever? When do we get to the point? What measure, what standard, what objective outcome do we have to reach before Americans get their liberty and freedoms back?
Fauci: You know, 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.
Jordan: You don’t think Americans’ liberties have been threatened the last year, Dr. Fauci? They’ve been assaulted, their liberties have.
Fauci: I don’t look at this as a liberty thing, Congressman Jordan.
Jordan: Well, that’s obvious.
Fauci: I look at this as a public health thing.
Fauci: I disagree with you on that completely.
Jordan: You think the Constitution is suspended during a virus, during a pandemic? It’s certainly not.
Fauci: This will end for sure when we get the level of infection very low. It is now at such a high level, there’s a threat again of major surges.
Jordan: Dr. Fauci, over the last year, Americans’ First Amendment rights have been completely attacked. Your right to go to church, your right to assemble, your right to petition your government, freedom of the press, freedom of speech have all been assaulted.
For a year now, Americans haven’t been able to go to church. Even today, when they go to church, they’re limited in the size of worshippers who can meet. Your right to assemble. Oh my goodness.
We had a curfew last fall in Ohio. You had to be in your home at 10. In Pennsylvania, you had to be in your home—when you’re in your home, you had to wear a mask. In Vermont, when you’re in your home, you didn’t have to wear a mask, Dr. Fauci, because you weren’t allowed to have people over to your house.
Fauci: Yeah. Congressman Jordan—
Jordan: Your ability to petition your government?
Jordan: For a year, American citizens haven’t been able to come to their Capitol to petition their government, to talk to their representatives.
And freedom of the press, these very pictures that Rep. [Steve] Scalise just showed you and talked about, guess what? The press isn’t allowed in those facilities. The Biden administration will not let the press in there.
And certainly freedom of speech. I mean, the governor of our third-largest state meets with physicians and that video is censored because they dare to disagree with Dr. Fauci? So I just want to know, when do Americans get their First Amendment liberties back?
Fauci: You know, I don’t think anything was censored because they felt they couldn’t disagree with me. I think you’re making this a personal thing and it isn’t.
Jordan: It’s not a personal thing.
Fauci: No, you are. That is exactly what you’re doing.
Jordan: No, your recommendations carry a lot of weight, Dr. Fauci. We just had the chair of the Financial Services Committee said she loves you and you’re the greatest thing in the world.
Fauci: My recommendations—
Rep. Carolyn Maloney: Will the gentleman yield?
Fauci: … are consistent—
Maloney: Will the gentleman yield?
Jordan: No, it’s my time.
Fauci: Can I answer the question, please? My recommendations are not a personal recommendation. It’s based on the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance, which is underscored—
Jordan: And I’m asking the question, what measures have to be attained before Americans get their First Amendment liberties back?
Fauci: I just told you that.
Jordan: No, you haven’t given anything specific. You said, “We hope when this certain … ” Tell me specifically what measures have to be reached?
Fauci: Right now we have about 60,000 infections a day, which is a very large risk for a surge. We’re not talking about liberties. We’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans.
Jordan: And I get that, Dr.—
Fauci: That’s what we’re talking about.
Jordan: I don’t disagree with that. And I understand how serious that is. But I also understand it’s pretty serious when businesses have been shut down, people can’t go to church, people can’t assemble in their own homes with their friends, with their families. People can’t go to a loved one’s funeral. People can’t get to their government, petition their representative to readdress their grievances.
I also understand the First Amendment’s pretty darn important, and it’s been a year. And I want to know when Americans will get those First Amendment liberties back.
Fauci: What you just said, “People cannot assemble in their own homes,” they can, that’s a CDC recommendation for vaccination—
Jordan: Not last fall, they couldn’t.
Fauci: I didn’t hear you.
Jordan: Not that last fall, they couldn’t.
Fauci: I didn’t hear what he said.
Rep. James Clyburn: The gentleman’s time has expired. I’ll tell you one instance of when we can get our liberties back is when 90% of the members of the United States Congress get vaccinated.
Jordan: Well, I want to know if that’s what Dr. Fauci … Is it 90%, Dr. Fauci?
Clyburn: That’s what I’m saying.
Jordan: Is it 90%? That’s what I’d like to know. Give us some objective standards versus when certain things get reached, we might be able to get back to having our liberty. When? What are the numbers?
Fauci: You’re going to see a gradual … From the … Right now, we’re at an unacceptably high level. On a daily basis it’s unacceptably high, regardless of who you are.
What you’re going to see as more and more people get vaccinated, and we get over 3 million people a day, you’re going to see the level of infection come down and down and gradually there will be more flexibility for doing the things that you’re talking about.
Jordan: Where does it get to? When it comes down, what number do we get our liberties back? Tell me the number.
Clyburn: When 90% of the members of Congress get vaccinated.
Jordan: But you’re not a doctor, Mr. Clyburn. He is. What is the number?
Fauci: I can’t give-
Maloney: Thank you for recognizing me, Mr. Clyburn. Thank you.
Clyburn: The chair now recognizes for five minutes—
Jordan: I’d like my question answered! [crosstalk]
Clyburn: … Ms. Maloney.
Maloney: Reclaiming my time! Reclaiming my time!
Rep. Maxine Waters: Order! Regular order!
Clyburn: Just a moment.
Jordan: Mr. Chairman, I don’t want you to answer my question. The American people want Dr. Fauci to answer the question.
Jordan: What does it have to be?
Waters: Your time expired, sir. You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth.
Clyburn: Don’t worry about this. We’re going to handle this. And I think Mr. Jordan knows me very well and he knows full well that we’re going to handle this. Your time has expired. And the chair now recognizes—
Jordan: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.