In a raucous exchange, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) hammered Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, on when Americans will see pandemic-related restrictions lifted.
“When do Americans get their freedom back?” Jordan asked.
Fauci began to respond that that will happen “when we get the level of infection in this country low enough.”
“What is low enough? Give me a number,” Jordan interjected, later asking: “What measure, what standard, what objective outcome do we have to reach before Americans get their liberty and freedoms back?”
“My message, Congressman Jordan, is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can to get the level of infection low that it is no longer a threat — that is when,” Fauci said.
He added: “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 pointed to restrictions, including curbed attendance in places of worship, over the past year.
“We’re not talking about liberties, we’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans,” Fauci said.
“I don’t disagree with that and I understand how serious that is,” Jordan said. “But I also said 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.”
In response to later questions from Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) about what behavior will lead to the end of the pandemic, Fauci said: “When the vaccine protection takes over, then you could have a gradual diminution of those types of guideline restrictions, which everyone would like to get rid of, not only Congressman Jordan.”
Later in the hearing, Jordan again asked Fauci for a “specific measurement that will have to be attained.”
“If I have a number, it would have to be my best estimate and that would be that the number of infections per day are well below 10,000 per day. At that point and up to that point, there would be a gradual pulling back of some of the restrictions you’re talking about,” Fauci said.
He later said projections suggest that the “overwhelming majority” of people in the country may be vaccinated sometime in the beginning to middle of the summer.
“The reason I can’t give you a precise number, because I’m not 100 percent sure how many people will want to be vaccinated,” Fauci added.