Top US scientist Anthony Fauci criticized a vaccine-skeptical Republican senator for unleashing “madmen” who threatened his life and harassed his family, in unusually emotional congressional testimony on Tuesday.
The last bitter exchange between Fauci and Senator Rand Paul came as Covid-19 cases, caused by the Omicron variant, soared, pushing hospital admissions to an all-time high of 145,982 and beating a previous record of about 142,000 in January 2021.
The United States is the worst-hit country in the world, with more than 840,000 deaths, and is reeling from the fifth wave.
President Joe Biden’s top officials, including his chief medical adviser Fauci, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walenksy, and acting chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Janet Woodcock, were called to appear before the Senate to testify about the pandemic.
While many fellow lawmakers focused their questions on the lack of adequate testing and confusing new guidelines about how infected people should end their isolation, Paul, who spoke out against vaccine mandates and refused to be vaccinated, said Fauci was personally responsible for the death of people.
Paul said Fauci was the “lead architect” of the US Covid response, blaming him for the roughly 450,000 deaths since Biden took office — even though the vast majority had not been vaccinated, and health officials, including Fauci, have consistently advocated vaccines .
“You attack me personally and with absolutely not a shred of evidence of whatever you say,” Fauci replied.
The 81-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases added that the attacks were distracted from the important work of fighting the pandemic, and made him a personal target for violence.
“Suddenly that stirs up the crazies out there, and I have life threats on my life, harassment of my family and my kids with obscene phone calls.”
Fauci recalled that in late December, a man was arrested on his way from California to the capital Washington, armed with an AR-15 assault weapon and multiple rounds of ammunition.
The man said he wanted to kill Fauci because what he said was blood on the hands of the scientists.
Fauci then waved a printout of Paul’s website with the “Fire Dr Fauci” banner next to an invitation to donate to the Republican campaign.
“You are causing a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain,” he added.
The clash came as Covid overwhelmed the US health care system, already stretched by the Delta variant and massive layoffs of staff.
Although Omicron causes severe cases at a slower rate than Delta, it reaches more people because of its extreme infectiousness.
The latest data from New York State shows that Covid vaccines hold up well against severe impacts.
As of December 27, 4.6 vaccinated people per 100,000 per week were hospitalized, compared with 58.3 per 100,000 among unvaccinated people, for an age-dependent vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization of 92 percent.
There has been a disconnect between the number of cases and hospitalizations during the Omicron wave compared to previous waves, but the effect was not as strong as that in Britain, which was the first to be hit by Omicron, but a higher vaccination and boost frequency.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)