April 15 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci's testimony during a House subcommittee meeting became heated Thursday after Rep. Jim Jordan repeatedly pressed the chief medical adviser to the president to say when the COVID-19 infection rate will be low enough to lift restrictions.
Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House oversight's coronavirus subcommittee that the daily number of infections in the United States will "gradually" come down as more people get vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a seven-day moving average of nearly 70,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. The number has been on the increase since a 2021 low of about 52,000 new daily cases in mid-March.
Meanwhile, the United States has administered 198 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 78.5 million people are fully vaccinated.
Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, interrupted Fauci's testimony to ask for an acceptable number of new infections before restrictions can be lifted, saying Americans' First Amendment rights have been violated with various COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
"When do Americans get their freedom back?" Jordan demanded. "We had 15 days of 'slow the spread' turn into one year of lost liberty."
Fauci said he was talking about the 560,000 Americans killed in the pandemic, not personal liberties.
"You're indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to hospital," Fauci said, adding that Jordan was "making this a personal thing and it isn't."
"It's not a personal thing," Jordan shot back.
"No, you are," Fauci replied, "that is exactly what you're doing."
Jordan repeatedly pressed Fauci for a "number" of infections needed to lift restrictions, interrupting Chairman James Clyburn when he tried to inform Jordan that his time had expired. Rep. Maxine Waters joined the heated back-and-forth, yelling at Jordan to "shut your mouth" after he prevented her from taking her time to speak.
Fauci later estimated the United States would need to get down to below 10,000 new infections a day