Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday repeatedly declined to criticize people who gather in large crowds to protest, even as he spoke against large gatherings of any kind.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked multiple times by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) about large protests contributing to the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“Do protests increase the spread of the virus? I think I can make a general statement,” Fauci said initially, adding: “Crowding together, particularly when you’re not wearing a mask, contributes to the spread of the virus.”
Jordan then wondered if the government should limit protests if they’re making the virus spread more.
“I’m not in a position to determine what the government can do in a forceful way,” Fauci said.
“Well, you make all kinds of recommendations. You make comments on dating, and baseball, and everything you can imagine,” Jordan responded.
The back-and-forth continued for five minutes, as Fauci avoided directly telling people not to protest.
“Avoid crowds of any type no matter where you are, because that leads to the acquisition and transmission. And I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd. When you’re in a crowd, particularly if you’re not wearing a mask, that’s inducing the spread,” he said.
Pressed again on whether the government, which has cracked down on the First Amendment right to freedom of religion, should take similar action against protesters, the doctor said he was not going to opine on limiting anything. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fauci has told Americans not to go to bars, cautioned against sports leagues starting or resuming seasons, and opined that people could use online dating if they were “willing to take a risk” with their health.
“You’ve opined on a lot of things, Dr. Fauci. This is something that directly impacts the spread of the virus, and I’m asking your position on the protests,” Jordan said.
“I’m not going to opine on limiting anything. I’m telling you what it is, the danger. And you can make your own conclusion about that. You should stay away from crowds, no matter where the crowds are,” Fauci told the lawmaker.
Fauci said at one point that he doesn’t have any scientific evidence that protests are contributing to the spread of the CCP virus.
Other officials have weighed in on protests. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told reporters last month that “it’s highly likely, given the increased numbers that we’re seeing, that some of this is, in fact, people who may have been in a crowded situation at one of the protests where there was spread.”
“I think obviously the protests had a lot to do with it,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, a Republican, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” this month: “We had, you know, thousands of young people together outside, a lot of them not wearing masks. And we know that when you do that and you are talking and you are chanting, etc., that really spreads the virus.”
As Jordan’s time expired on Friday, Fauci laughed and made a dismissive motion at the lawmaker.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is chairing the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, then admonished Jordan, telling him: “I will just ask the gentleman to just think about his question and put it in reference to crowds that gather at political meetings, at fundraisers without masks, on an oil rig in Texas, nobody wearing a mask, nobody social distancing.”
“Would that be problematic?” he added, before the next lawmaker began questioning Fauci and other public health officials.