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