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At a Thursday Senate hearing on the nation’s coronavirus response, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) once again suggested that he knew better than Dr. Anthony Fauci when it came to mask requirements.

Paul repeatedly pressed Fauci on the utility of wearing masks given that prior infection and vaccination confer immunity to the coronavirus. But he didn’t seem to want to hear Fauci’s response about the possibility of reinfection by emerging, contagious COVID variants.

“If we’re not spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?” Paul said. “If you got the vaccine and you’re wearing two masks, isn’t that theater?”

“Here we go again, with the theater,” Fauci said. “Let’s get down to the facts.”

When Fauci again brought up the danger of variants against which vaccinated and previously infected people may not be immune, Paul accused him of “making policy based on conjecture.”

“You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show,” he said. “You want to get rid of vaccine hesitancy? Tell them they can quit wearing their masks after they get their vaccine.”

“I totally disagree with you,” Fauci said. “Let me just state, for the record, that masks are not theater. Masks are protective.”

This isn’t the first time Paul and Fauci have sparred at Senate hearings. Last May, Paul criticized Fauci for his recommendation that schools not open in the fall. Then, in September, he falsely suggested that New York City succeeded at flattening the curve in the early months of the pandemic not because of shutdowns and strict adherence to CDC guidelines, but because the initial devastating outbreak had allowed the population to reach herd immunity.

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