U.S. Sen. Rand Paul visited Calhoun on Wednesday to meet with elected officials and McLean County residents.
The meeting at the McLean County Farm Bureau and Insurance Service building on Main Street was the second of several community meetings Paul, a Bowling Green Republican, was holding Wednesday, with stops in Beaver Dam, Madisonville, Greenville and Morgantown scheduled, where he planned to hear the issues affecting Kentucky’s rural communities.
Before diving into the main topics at hand in Calhoun, Paul joked about his reputation for being controversial.
“You can only follow me on social media when I’m not being kicked off of social media,” Paul said. “If you say something that the left doesn’t agree with, instead of debating you, they just ban you now.”
Paul discussed his recent comments about the types of masks to wear to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“About a month ago, I gave an interview … and in the interview, I said that cloth masks don’t work,” Paul said. “Which is the truth, they don’t. The thing is, if your spouse has COVID, and you’re at risk yourself, if I tell you to wear a cloth mask at home around your spouse, I’m really giving you bad medical advice, and you’re gonna catch it anyway, through the cloth mask.”
Paul said that some masks do work. Still, he believes that folks strongly encouraging others to wear a mask is an infringement on an individual’s freedom.
“The N-95 mask … it’s tighter than you know what, and it hurts, and it stays on and no air can get in or around it,” Paul said. “If you wear that all the time and don’t touch it, it might protect you. But can you live your life that way? And really, should somebody be telling you you have to live your life that way?”
“The bottom line is that we need to figure out ways to try to protect ourselves that can actually work and that we can live with.”
Paul said it is “a good idea” for residents to get vaccinated, but that it should be a personal choice, and that people should not be judged if they decide not to get it.
“It is your business; it’s a free country,” Paul said. “You make your own decision on it. When people try to persuade you, you make your own decision.”
Paul said that whether someone is vaccinated or unvaccinated, they should consider a procedure that “might save your life” that has been used by former President Donald Trump, as well as Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City.
“This week, I helped two people get this treatment; it’s called monoclonal antibodies,” Paul said. “It’s given as an IV. It’s a two-hour infusion. But you have to get it before you get too sick. The monoclonal antibodies work early in the disease, as you begin to get like a bronchitis or coughing and you feel like you have a congestion, before you get full-blown pneumonia, it can save your life.”
Paul also brought up concerns about school-aged children being required to wear masks in schools.
“The death rate for children is one in a million,” Paul said. “The death rate for over 65 is probably a thousand times higher. This is a disease for those primarily who are older. There’s been an occasional child who has died. Should we force kids to wear a mask for a disease that is less dangerous to them than the seasonal flu?
“The thing is, are we going to force all these kids and make them run track in masks and do all this stuff and do it forever? No, I say absolutely not. We ought to let them have their freedom to live their lives.”
Paul said that people need to consider the people who are giving out advice on how to navigate through the pandemic. He noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the chief medical advisor to the president, has been “without the exact power to do it; he’s been influencing all these decisions.”
Paul also touched on the younger generation embracing a socialist approach.
“If you interview young people, over 50% … will say ‘why don’t we try socialism?’ … a kinder, gentler socialism like (Senator) Bernie Sanders wants,” Paul said. “The naivete of this. I don’t know what we’re teaching these kids.”
“We can’t be ignorant of history. We need to understand what made our country great. What made our country great was freedom. The fact that we thought that our rights are a gift from God and the government is instituted among men to protect rights that are ours that are granted from our creator. But if we go thinking ‘oh, socialism might be something we want to try,’ we’re going through a world of hurt. And that’s what’s gonna happen if we’re not careful.”
Paul opened the floor for questions from those in attendance.
Curtis Dame, McLean County judge-executive, raised concerns about 70% of the county being in a 100-year floodplain, causing issues when building new establishments, coupled with the 4% decrease in the county’s population.
“The reason why (this) is a concern for me in my chair is that it inhibits future growth in industry, commerce (and) industrial development,” Dame said. “It’s hard to fight a 4% census reduction in population where people can’t build in a floodplain. We can build, (and) I’ve worked with a number of residents .... to do floodplain permitting correctly. But the issue we have is that it does not make us competitive to be a bedroom community for Owensboro, Madisonville ….”
Paul gave Dame some reason for hope.
“If there are specific things in the map that you want us to look at and advocate with the agencies, we’re happy to try, and we ought to see if we can do that,” Paul said.
Many folks, like Sabrina Sonner of Island, were happy to have Paul visit the community and found his presence needed during this uncertain time in the county and country.
“I just want to say how much we appreciate your work,” Sonner said to Paul. “It’s like you’re light in a dark place right now.”
Freddie Bourne, fbourne @mcleannews.com