Outspoken Republican Jim Jordan entered into a heated exchange with Dr Anthony Fauci on the House floor about Covid-19 restrictions, and it resulted in Democrat Maxine Waters telling the congressman to "shut his mouth."
During a House subcommittee hearing about the federal government's response to the pandemic, Mr Jordan asked the infectious disease expert when Americans could expect a relaxation to physical-distancing and mask-wearing guidance.
Specifically, the Ohio conservative wanted to know when Americans could get their "liberty and freedom" back.
"You're indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to hospital," Dr Fauci said, adding that vaccinations would help bring life back to normal.
Mr Jordan criticised Dr Fauci for continuing to share the message of wearing a mask and social distancing more than one year into the pandemic, but the infectious disease expert said that wouldn't change unless more Americans received a vaccine.
"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 so that it is no longer a threat," Dr Fauci said.
The answer did not satisfy Mr Jordan, who wanted to know what would be a "low enough" infection number to bring the country back to normal. "What is low enough, give me a number?" Mr Jordan yelled.
"Fifteen days to slow the spread turned into one year of lost liberty," the congressman continued, referring to a slogan coined by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
Dr Fauci appeared visibly annoyed by the congressman's line of questioning when responding, stating that the federal government's current goal was to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible so Covid-19 surges would no longer be a threat to the public. He later accused Mr Jordan of making the pandemic a "personal thing".
"It's not a personal thing," Mr Jordan responded.
"No, you are," Dr Fauci said. "That is exactly what you're doing."
One reason why the expert was recommending for health measures to continue was due to the surge in infection rates across the US. The country was recording an average of 60,000 new infections per day, "which is a very large risk for resurge," Dr Fauci said.
At one point during the exchange, Mr Jordan yelled at the expert: "You don't think Americans' liberties have been threatened in the last year, Dr. Fauci?! They've been assaulted!"
“This will end for sure when we get the level of infection very low,” Dr Fauci replied.
Despite the representative’s time expiring, he continued to yell at Dr Fauci to answer his question on how many would need a vaccine before life could return to normal. This encouraged Ms Waters to lash out against the representative.
“You need to respect the chair and shut your mouth,” the California congresswoman told Mr Jordan.
Thursday’s hearing was intended to examine the Biden administration’s progress on administering vaccines to the American public as the country strives to return to normal. CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky and Dr David Kessler, the White House chief science officer of the Covid-19 response, were also in attendance.
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