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Rand Paul says COVID-19 survivors should 'throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again'

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday called for those who have recovered from COVID-19 to “throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again” as the coronavirus surges nationwide, falsely claiming those who have recovered from the virus are “now immune.”

Paul, who tested positive for the virus in March, told Fox News that the 11 million Americans who have also recovered should “celebrate.”

“We should tell them to throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again, because these people are now immune,” Paul, a self-certified ophthalmologist, said.

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The Kentucky Republican then went after Anthony FauciAnthony FauciUS COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's Vaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and claimed the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases “doesn’t want to admit to any of that.”

“Dr. Fauci is like ‘Oh, woe is me’ until the election occurs, but now maybe he’ll be changing his attitude,” Paul continued.

Paul’s comments appear to contradict the guidance from public health experts who have said there is no evidence yet to suggest that people who have contracted the virus are now immune to reinfection indefinitely or cannot spread it to anyone else.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance on Oct. 27 stating that experts are “still learning more about COVID-19." Current research suggests reinfection is rare but the CDC states some coronavirus reinfections are “expected.”

The agency’s guidance still recommends wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands regardless of whether someone has had COVID-19 or not.

Paul’s comments come as coronavirus cases have spiked to record-breaking levels across the country.

On Thursday, the United States recorded more than 152,000 new coronavirus infections, surpassing a daily increase of 150,000 for the first time since the pandemic hit the country earlier this year. The grim record comes after the U.S. first reached 100,000 new cases in a single day last week. 

Paul, who has frequently criticized lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus while questioning their effectiveness, has previously gone after Fauci’s guidance. 

In September, a seemingly irritated Fauci scolded Paul at a congressional hearing after the senator claimed that COVID-19 cases might not be rising in New York because of herd immunity. 

He told Paul he had been wrong about the concept of herd immunity, saying: “No, you've misconstrued that, senator, and you've done that repeatedly in the past.”

When Paul floated the theory that New Yorkers have now developed enough immunity that they are no longer at risk, Fauci said the senator was “completely off base.”

“He was saying things that were not true,” Fauci said on Vox’s “Today, Explained” podcast the next day. “It is what’s called cherry-picking information out there. He was saying things that were not compatible with the scientific data.” 

Other doctors were quick to criticize the senator’s claims.

“I don’t know why he would say that,” Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist at the University of Washington Medical Center, told MSNBC of Paul’s comments. “There is no evidence that if you’ve been infected with COVID-19 that you are immune from reinfection for any period of time.”

Gupta pointed to a 25-year-old Nevada man who scientists confirmed was the first case of coronavirus reinfection in the U.S. last month. The man, who remains unnamed, first tested positive in April before recovering and testing negative in May. Then in June, he tested positive for the virus again, developing symptoms of COVID-19 a second time that were more severe.

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“That is shameful on the part of Sen. Rand Paul,” Gupta said.

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