Democrats and Republicans traded blows during a House hearing while grilling Dr Antony Fauci on Trump’s COVID response.
On Friday, Fauci, CDC boss Robert Redfield and HHS Testing Czar Admiral Brett Giroir testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis in Washington DC.
When the subject of Black Lives Matter protests contributing to the spread of coronavirus came up, things took a tense turn during Friday's meeting.
After emphasizing the need for masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, and hand washing, Rep Jordan (R) of Ohio brought up the enormous George Floyd demonstrations in major US cities.
"Crowding … contributes to the virus," Fauci during an increasingly heated exchange with the Ohio politician.
"Well I'm not in a position to [decide] … I think I would leave that to people who have more of a position to do that."
Fauci repeated that a large gathering of any kind would be ripe for contagion but refused to condemn the protests.
He also said it wasn't his place to recommend that the government clamp down on them to stop the spread.
"Avoid crowds of any type no matter where you are … I don't judge one crowd versus another crowd," he told Jordan.
"I am not going to [comment] on limiting anything, I’m telling you on what it is the danger.
"You should stay away from crowds no matter where the crowds are," Fauci continued. "Crowds are known … to increase the acquisition and transmission."
After a five-minute recess, Fauci clarified that being in a large crowd outdoors was more favorable, however.
Rep Clyburn also highlighted that the reason he was chairing the hearing today was as a result of a Civil Rights protest.
Speaking about the BLM mural in Washington DC that the late Rep John Lewis attended, Clyburn said: "They were met by weapons. I don't want it to get confused here."
Rep Maxine Waters commented on the mounting partisan tensions, highlighting the fact that the virus was not democratic or republican.
She issued her condolences to former presidential candidate Herman Cain's coronavirus death this week, saying he "contracted the virus as a result of his attendance" at Donald Trump's Tulsa rally without a mask.
Jordan decried the infringement on religious freedom and reopening when it came to the First Amendment, saying "kids can't get what they need" to get them on the right educational path "but they can protest."
"I'm concerned," Jordan said. "All kinds of Americans right now aren't permitted to go to work.
"What do Democrat-led governments do? They arrest them if they want to run their business," he added, citing the two New Jersey business owners who were booked for operating their gym in defiance of state orders.
Jordan also highlighted how at risk law enforcement was to the virus as the demonstrations raged on.
During the hearing which focussed on reopening schools, the president also weighed into the House debate.
Trump issued a stinging attack on Clyburn's chart illustrating the USA's surging cases versus Asia and Europe.
"Somebody please tell Congressman Clyburn, who doesn’t have a clue, that the chart he put up indicating more CASES for the U.S. than Europe, is because we do MUCH MORE testing than any other country in the WorldIf we had no testing, or bad testing, we would show very few CASES," he raged.
"Our massive testing capability, rather than being praised, is used by the Lamestream Media and their partner, the Do Nothing Radical Left Democrats, as a point of scorn.
"This testing, and what we have so quickly done, is used as a Fake News weapon. Sad!"
Last month, Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has warned that the BLM protests are a “perfect setup” for a new wave of the coronavirus to spread.
He told WTOP radio on Friday: “It's a perfect setup for further spread of the virus in the sense of creating these blips which might turn into some surges.”
Dr Fauci added: “I get very concerned, as do my colleagues in public health, when they see these kinds of crowds.
“There certainly is a risk. I can say that with confidence.”
The hearing is ongoing.
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