Tensions were high on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as the government's infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC director testified before a Senate committee, both defending the Biden administration's COVID response.
During the hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) again accused Fauci of lying about NIH funding for gain-of-function research in China, a process that alters a pathogen that comes from animals to make it more transmissible to humans.
During testimony, Fauci found himself backtracking and on the defense.
"You are implying what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals. I totally resent that. If anybody is lying here senator it is you," he said.
"How you can say it's not gain of function?" said Paul. "It's a dance and you're dancing around this because you're trying to obscure responsibility for four million people dying around the world from a pandemic."
Fauci fired back, "Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially, you do not know what you are talking about."
But Paul still said Fauci will be held responsible if an investigation shows COVID came from a U.S.-funded lab in Wuhan.
"We don't know if it did come from the lab, but all of the evidence is pointing that it came from the lab and there will be responsibility for those who funded the lab, including yourself," Paul said.
Paul and Fauci are also at odds over whether or not people are at risk of COVID after they've had it or have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, fears over the Delta variant are on the rise as 37 states report more patients coming through their hospital doors because of COVID. The CDC says the U.S. is now averaging 30,000 new coronavirus cases a day. That's nearly a 300 percent spike in the weekly average in just the last month.
"Over the last week, we have averaged 239 deaths per day, an increase of nearly 48% over the prior week," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
Many of the sick are said to be children.
"We've had over 16,000 hospitalizations for children with COVID. This is probably the 10th leading cause of death for kids in the past year," said Dr. Lee Savio Beers of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
With a new school year about to begin, the debate over mask-wearing in the classroom is again intensifying. On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended universal masking in schools for students and teachers alike.
Pressure is building on the CDC to reverse its guidance to require masks in schools regardless of vaccination status. Right now, vaccines are not authorized for children under 12 because safety research still needs to be done.
Thousands of miles away in Tokyo, COVID is starting to take a toll at the Olympic games. A team USA gymnastics alternate is the latest to test positive at a training camp. And one of the biggest American tennis stars has withdrawn after a positive test.
Meanwhile, the CDC insists the unvaccinated are still the most vulnerable.
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