Disobedient Americans are to blame for surging coronavirus cases in the states with the strictest lockdowns, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci and senior House Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). Or at least that’s what they appeared to say during a congressional hearing on the pandemic response late last week.
While Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s hostile questioning of Dr. Fauci on when Americans could “get their freedoms back” made headlines, during his time to speak, Jordan also asked an important question that went unanswered and underreported.
Pointing to Michigan, which had some of the nation’s strictest lockdown policies and yet is reporting the highest level of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Jordan asked Fauci to explain why states that ended lockdowns and loosened restrictions like Texas or Michigan’s neighbor Wisconsin are not seeing comparable surges in COVID-19 cases.
“You said when Texas ended their lockdown, ended their mandate, that this was ‘inexplicable and would lead to a surge in cases,'” Jordan reminded Fauci last Thursday. “Texas is near the bottom of the 50 states [for coronavirus cases] but all the states at the top are lockdown states.”
Those “top lockdown states” Jordan cited include Michigan, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York City, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York.
“What explains why Texas is so darn low compared to the rest of the states?” he asked.
Dr. Fauci was asked why Texas, with no statewide restrictions, hasn’t yet seen a surge this spring, unlike other st… https://t.co/Xh4binX6Tp
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“There’s a difference between lockdown and the people obeying the lockdown,” Fauci replied. “You could have a situation where they say we’re going to lock down, and yet you have people doing exactly what they shouldn’t do.”
Fauci said, in other words, that people in Michigan may not be in compliance with the state’s restrictions and mandates whereas in Texas, by his logic, state residents are more in compliance with mask-wearing, social distancing, and self-imposed quarantine.
“Is that what’s happening in the top eight states in the country?” an incredulous Jordan pressed. “They’re just not following what’s been told, they’re not listening to Dr. Fauci?”
But before Fauci could answer, committee Chairman Jim Clyburn announced that Jordan’s time had expired and attempted to move on. When Jordan protested that Fauci should answer his question, Clyburn asserted that the doctor already had.
“I think the gentleman answered you quite clearly,” Clyburn said, though Fauci never answered Jordan. “There is a big difference in being a lockdown state by order and being a state that obeys orders. That answers the question, in my opinion.”
According to the latest numbers from the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker, Michigan reported an average of 6,884 new COVID-19 cases on April 20. The state is reporting about 69 new cases per 100,000 people daily.
By way of comparison, Wisconsin reported a daily average of 827 new cases on April 20 and is reporting just 14 new cases per 100,000 people. In Texas there were 2,952 new cases, 10 new cases per 100,000 people.
In March, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate. That same month, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott lifted his state’s mask mandates and fully reopened the state from COVID-19 lockdowns, a move Fauci at the time called “quite risky.”
But neither state experienced a surge of coronavirus cases after ending their mask mandates and lockdown policies. On April 10 on MSNBC, Fauci said he wasn’t sure why Texas’ coronavirus cases were going down and suggested “it could be they’re doing things outdoors.”
The fact of the matter is Michigan continues to enforce coronavirus restrictions and yet cases are still going up. States that ended the restrictions are not seeing comparable surges in COVID-19 cases. And before the nation’s most-cited health expert on the coronavirus response, Dr. Fauci, could answer a question on that discrepancy, Clyburn shut the conversation down.