Rand Paul promotes unfounded COVID-19 immunity claims, says recovered patients should serve seniors at restaurants

Emma Austin, Louisville Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Speaking at a campaign rally over the weekend, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul encouraged skepticism of public health guidelines meant to stem spread of the coronavirus — and offered some of his own ideas on how to control the pandemic.

The Kentucky Republican spoke Sunday at a campaign event for Nick Freitas, a Republican candidate for Congress in Virginia, and told the crowd cloth masks "don't work."

"Ninety-seven percent of viruses go through a cloth mask," Paul said at the event, which was livestreamed on Freitas' Facebook page. "The surgical masks, it's about 50%. N95s do actually work; they're uncomfortable as hell."

Paul did not say where he got the statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face coverings, such as cloth masks, in public settings to prevent people who may be infected with COVID-19 but don't have symptoms from spreading it to others.

Fact check: CDC report doesn't show mask-wearers are more likely to contract COVID-19

The CDC also recommends reserving surgical masks and N95 respirators for health care workers and other first responders, who need protection.

Paul criticized "so much pessimism" surrounding the coronavirus, adding "they won't say one thing about immunity."

"I've had it. I can't get it again," Paul said, receiving a loud cheer and applause from the crowd.

Research on immunity from the virus is limited, but according to the CDC, "While individuals who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection might develop some protective immunity, the duration and extent of such immunity are not known."

The CDC recommends all people, whether or not they have had COVID-19, take steps to prevent getting and spreading the virus, including wearing a face covering.

Paul also shared a plan for restaurants based on his unfounded claims about immunity:

"If I own a restaurant, I'd have a whole wing for senior citizens or for anybody who is worried about getting sick, and I would say all my servers have already had it," he said. "If I had a cruise ship, I'd hire everybody — no exceptions — everybody would have had the infection that works on the boat."

Paul has repeatedly challenged Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation's foremost COVID-19 public health expert, on public health guidelines during the pandemic.

Previously: Rand Paul again rips Fauci over coronavirus: 'We just need more optimism'

After testing positive for the virus in March, Paul has said he doesn't need to wear a mask, claiming immunity. He's often been seen around the Capitol not wearing a mask, including during the Senate's Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett Monday evening.

Follow reporter Emma Austin on Twitter at @emmacaustin.

Reviewed: We tested cloth face masks—these are the 10 best you can buy online

Opinion: My 'suburban mom' demographic is supposedly all in for Biden. But I'm voting for Trump.

Donald Trump made many promises in 2016 and early in his term: Which has he kept and what is he still working on?

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Rand Paul says COVID-19 survivors should serve seniors at restaurants