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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 FauciScience seeks truth, Trump denies it Fauci says US may want to mandate masks amid COVID-19 surges Trump, Biden final arguments at opposite ends on COVID-19 MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert, after GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTwo Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 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 John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 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 HannityBiden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name Trafalgar chief pollster predicts Trump victory: Polls 'predominantly missing the hidden vote' Trump, Biden dial up efforts to boost early voter turnout in Florida MORE, Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonTrump when asked if he'd be kinder in his second term: 'Yes, I think so' Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox The Memo: Trump searches for path to comeback MORE and Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamTrump's test sparks fears of spread: Here's who he met in last week Fox News tops broadcast networks for first time in 3rd quarter Will Chis Wallace's debate topics favor Biden over Trump? 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 CheneyMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Steve King defends past comments on white supremacy, blasts NYT and GOP leaders in fiery floor speech GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power 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."