GOP lawmakers: Fauci may be doing more harm than good
Republican Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Ken Buck (Colo.) criticized Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, for the impact of his social distancing recommendations, claiming that the stay-at-home policies informed by those recommendations have forced businesses, workers and corporations into economic turmoil.
“For Fauci, is it merely a societal or economic inconvenience that about 17 million workers are unemployed because of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with many more to come in the weeks and months ahead? The economic calamity lies largely with the origination of policies resulting from Fauci’s recommendations,” the lawmakers wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner published Saturday.
Biggs and Buck, both members of the conservative Freedom Caucus and staunch allies of President Trump, join others on the right in criticizing public health officials on the administration’s coronavirus task force. On Tuesday, Tucker Carlson, a conservative commentator on Fox News, said that Fauci “shouldn’t be making economic decisions.”
The lawmakers’ op-ed comes as the United States has seen record increases in unemployment. In the first week of April, more than 6 million people filed for unemployment, according to data released by the U.S. Labor Department. More than 10 million people applied for unemployment in the last two weeks of March as businesses shuttered due to fears of the pandemic’s spread.
“The longer government-imposed lockdowns go on, the more people will lose their jobs — millions more,” the lawmakers wrote. “Thousands of businesses will close their doors. The physical and emotional toll from this self-imposed economic destruction will be worse than the doomsday prophets projected.”
Trump has shared similar concerns about closures in the past, tweeting, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.”
However, when asked by reporters about whether he would continue to listen to medical professionals on the coronavirus task force, Trump said yes. The president added that he would listen to health experts and balance their guidance with that of his economic advisers.
Fauci, a public health official with the National Institutes of Health, does not advise the president on matters besides science and is concerned with the mitigation of the disease to contain the outbreak and prevent casualties.
Both Fauci and Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the coronavirus task force, have said social distancing and the mass closures that result are the only ways to mitigate the spread of the disease. Once large-scale testing is available, they’ve asserted, the data they collect could help phase out the guidelines.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signaled this week that the federal government is aiming to open up the economy by early May. However, state lawmakers and health experts are unsure of the feasibility of this date, as many states across the country have yet to reach their peak in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Biggs and Buck said they are skeptical of the doctors’ expertise, noting their estimates have fluctuated in terms of projected deaths, spanning from a high of 240,000 deaths estimated in the past weeks to a recalibrated estimation of 60,000 deaths most recently.
Fauci has said the estimation has dropped because of Americans’ efforts to self-isolate and practice social distance.
“Surely, more revisions are to come,” the lawmakers said, adding that Birx’s method of counting coronavirus deaths, which include those who have the virus and died as a result of preexisting health issues “almost sounds as if she is trying to boost the fatality rate.”
The lawmakers conceded that Fauci and other public health experts deserve “some credit for mitigating the spread of this virus,” though they “should no longer be the primary voices at the table.”
But, Biggs and Buck added the economic damage caused by “stay at home” order across the potentially irreversible.
“Many businesses have been shuttered forever,” the lawmakers wrote. “It will be almost impossible for countless other small businesses to reopen once the government gives the all-clear for the economy to restart.”
Congress has made efforts to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic, signing into law a series of three coronavirus relief bills. The latest stimulus package, clocking in at about $2 trillion, has set up programs to administer loans to small businesses, pay workers as well as set up funds to help the airline industry.
There are currently more than 519,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and 20,071 reported deaths.
Updated 4:20 p.m.
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