Rand Paul has long pushed back on wearing face masks and previously sparred with Dr. Anthony Fauci. On Thursday, he managed to do both during a Senate hearing on the country's coronavirus response efforts. In what CNBC bills as a "fiery exchange" between President Biden's chief medical adviser and the Kentucky senator, the latter mocked the former for advocating for face coverings for people who've already had COVID or been vaccinated, making the claim that those individuals have "virtually 0% chance" of contracting the virus. "Isn't it just theater?" asked Rand, who is also an ophthalmologist. He accused Fauci of "[parading] around in two masks for show," even though he's been vaccinated. Fauci instantly replied, "Here we go again with the theater." He then emphatically noted: "Can I just state for the record that masks are not theater. I totally disagree with you."
Although Fauci conceded that people who have already had COVID have some antibody protection, perhaps for several months, it's not known exactly how long the antibodies last, per the Washington Post. Fauci also noted that virus variants are worrisome, as there is no guarantee antibodies fighting the original coronavirus strain would be effective against the variants. He added that even though people who've had COVID or been vaccinated may be less at risk for getting sick, it also remains unclear if they can still harbor and transmit the virus to others. Although the CDC released a guidelines update earlier this month that said people who've been fully vaccinated can gather indoors without masks with others who've been fully vaccinated, the agency noted that people should still wear masks and stay socially distanced in public, as well as around those with a higher risk for severe illness and in gatherings of unvaccinated people from more than one other household. (Read more Anthony Fauci stories.)