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Lamar Alexander defends Fauci: He isn't 'holding himself up as an omniscient person'

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday came to the defense of Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci: Whatever COVID-19 vaccine is available, 'take it' Julia Roberts presents Award of Courage to Fauci: 'You have been a beacon for us' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert, after GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (Ky.) and some conservative commentators criticized the doctor's warnings about the coronavirus outbreak. 

Alexander said in an interview on Fox News that the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases "isn’t holding himself up as an omniscient person."

"He’s saying what the thinks, as a person who’s been in charge of infectious disease since 1984," Alexander said. "Then it’s up to the president and the governors and the mayors to take that advice and make decisions."

The comments from Alexander come just a day after Fauci and other leading health experts testified during a virtual Senate hearing about the U.S. coronavirus response. Fauci warned during testimony that states could face very "serious consequences" if they ignore federal guidelines and reopen too quickly. 

But he faced skepticism from Paul, who at one point said that scientists should "have a little bit of humility" because they do not know what's best for the economy.

"As much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don't think you're the end-all. I don't think you're the one person that gets to make a decision," Paul said, prompting Fauci to say that he has "never" made himself out "to be the end-all and only voice in this."

"I'm a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence," he said, noting that he hasn't given out any economic advice amid the crisis. 

Alexander on Wednesday applauded Fauci for his commentary, saying that he is "usually very careful to say I don’t know or I’m cautiously optimistic."

"So I wouldn’t characterize him as trying to be omniscient," he said. "I don’t think he tries to do that all. I think he tries to give good advice and then you can take the advice or leave it."

The U.S. has reported more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and roughly 83,100 deaths from it as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. Many states in recent weeks have begun to gradually lift restrictions on businesses that were put in place at the outset of the outbreak to curb the spread of the virus.

President TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE has begun aggressively pushing for states to reopen, citing the significant economic damage prolonged shutdowns have caused. 

Health experts stress that widespread testing availability and a comprehensive contact tracing program needs to be in place to avoid a second a wave of infections.

"Even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear," Fauci said during Tuesday's Senate hearing. "It's the ability and the capability of responding to those cases with good identification, isolation and contact tracing [that] will determine whether you can continue to go forward, as you try to reopen America.”

In addition to Paul, Fox News hosts Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityCruz blames criticism of Cancun trip on media 'Trump withdrawal' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Tanden's odds plummet to lead OMB Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE, Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonTucker Carlson bashes CNN, claims it's 'more destructive' than QAnon Former Trump officials eye bids for political office Jill Biden picks up where she left off MORE and Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamHaley isolated after Trump fallout Tucker Carlson to produce video podcasts for Fox Nation Rush Limbaugh dead at 70 MORE criticized Fauci's warnings. Carlson labeled Fauci a "chief buffoon of the professional class," claiming that he was responsible for a lot of wrong predictions about the virus. 

On the other hand, Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyConservatives go after Cheney for Trump CPAC remarks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help Senate GOP works to avoid having '22 war with Trump MORE (R-Wyo.) praised the official, saying in a tweet that he is "one of the finest public servants we have ever had."

"His only interest is saving lives," she said. "We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus. All Americans should be thanking him. Every day."