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Fauci clashes with Rand Paul over masks

The nation's top infectious diseases doctor Anthony FauciAnthony Fauci Fauci believes Johnson & Johnson vaccine will get back on track 'quickly' Maxine Waters cuts off Jim Jordan, Fauci sparring at hearing: 'Shut your mouth' Pfizer CEO: Third dose of COVID-19 vaccine 'likely' needed within 1 year MORE on Thursday clashed with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Fauci on Tucker Carlson vaccine comments: 'Typical crazy conspiracy theory' MORE (R-Ky.) over the need for people to continue wearing masks once they've already been infected with or vaccinated against COVID-19.

"You're telling everyone to wear a mask," Paul said. "If we're not spreading the infection, isn't it just theater? You have the vaccine and you're wearing two masks, isn't that theater?"

"Here we go again with the theater," an exasperated Fauci responded. "Let's get down to the facts."

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Paul, who was infected with COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic last March, has said he is immune to future infection. As a result, he refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol and has declared he does not need to be vaccinated. 

Paul argued there are no studies that show significant reinfection among people who have recovered from the virus or after vaccination. 

"I agree with you, that you very likely would have protection from wild type for at least six months if you're infected," Fauci said, but pointed out there is no protection from some of the more infectious variants, like the one one first found in South Africa. The variants are a "good reason for a mask."

"You're making policy based on conjecture!" Paul said, talking over Fauci and accusing him of wanting people to wear masks "for another couple of years."

"You've been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show," Paul continued. "If you already have immunity, you're wearing a mask to give comfort to others. You're not wearing a mask because of any science."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance states that those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should still wear a mask in public.

Paul, a libertarian ophthalmologist, has clashed repeatedly with Fauci throughout the pandemic on a wide range of topics including the idea of herd immunity and the effectiveness of restrictions.

"Let me just state for the record, masks are not theater," Fauci said, adding that "I totally disagree" with what Paul said.