Top health expert Anthony Fauci rebuked Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at a hearing on Wednesday over his suggestion that New York's COVID-19 infection rate is low because the population there has reached herd immunity.

The big picture: Paul, a libertarian who has criticized government lockdown measures as "authoritarian," has clashed with Fauci in previous hearings. Paul accused Fauci of being a "big fan" of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his lockdown restrictions, while Fauci said the Kentucky senator has repeatedly "misconstrued" his comments.

The exchange:

PAUL: "How can we possibly jump up and down and saying, 'Oh Gov. Cuomo did a great job.' He had the worst death rate in the world."
FAUCI: "No, you've misconstrued that senator and you've done that repetitively in the past. They got hit very badly. They made some mistakes. Right now, if you look at what's going on right now, the things going on in New York to get their test positivity 1% or less is because they are looking at the guidelines that we have put together from the task force of the four or five things of masks, social distancing, outdoors more than indoors, avoiding crowds and washing hands."
PAUL: "Or that have developed enough community immunity that they're no longer having the pandemic because they have enough immunity in New York City to actually stop -- "
FAUCI: "I challenge that, senator. Please sir, I would like to be able to do this, because this happens with Sen. Rand all the time. You're not listening to what the director of the CDC said. In New York, it's about 22%. If you believe 22% is herd immunity, I believe you're alone in that."

Go deeper ... Flashback: Rand Paul tells Fauci, "I don’t think you're the end-all" for coronavirus decisions

Go deeper

How the coronavirus pandemic could end

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's still the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, but history, biology and the knowledge gained from our first nine months with COVID-19 point to how the pandemic might end.

The big picture: Pandemics don't last forever. But when they end, it usually isn't because a virus disappears or is eliminated. Instead, they can settle into a population, becoming a constant background presence that occasionally flares up in local outbreaks.

Updated 18 hours ago - World

France becomes 2nd Western European country to top 1M coronavirus cases

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Seine Saint Denis prefecture headquarters in Paris, on Tuesday. Photo: Ludovic Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

France has become the second country in Western Europe to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases, Johns Hopkins University data shows

The big picture: France had reported 1,000,369 cases and 34,075 deaths from the coronavirus by Thursday morning, per JHU. French President Emmanuel Macron declared a state of health emergency and imposed a curfew on virus hot spots earlier this month. Spain on Wednesday became the first Western European nation to top 1 million cases.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
23 hours ago - Health

Many U.S. coronavirus deaths were avoidable

Data: National Center for Disaster Preparedness; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

If the U.S. death rate had matched that of other wealthy countries, between about 55,000 and 215,000 Americans would still be alive, according to a scathing new analysis by Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Why it matters: These countries have taken a significantly different approach to the virus than the U.S., providing yet another example that things didn't have to be this way.

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