Devin Nunes pushes to reopen country as pandemic kills more people


Even the Trump administration has extended social distancing guidelines until at least May, abandoning Trump's earlier suggestion that the country could reopen by April 12.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) demanded on Tuesday that social distancing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 end within the next seven to 14 days, even as the Trump administration said they must continue at least until May.

Nunes complained on Fox News that his state had shut down schools and urged that the economy be reopened imminently.

"The schools were canceled here in California, which is way overkill," he said. "It's possible kids could've went back to school in two weeks to four weeks, but they just canceled the rest of the schools."

After expressing optimism that untested drugs would be able to help people with coronavirus, Nunes said, "I will tell you this: If we don't start to get people back to work in this country over the next week to two weeks, I don't believe we can wait until, you know, the end of April. I just think, I just don't know of any economy that's ever survived where you unplug the entire economy and expect things to go back and be normal."

This is not the first time Nunes has downplayed the pandemic and prioritized the economy over public health. On March 14, he encouraged people to ignore social distancing guidelines and eat out at local dining establishments.

"There’s a lot of concerns with the economy here because people are scared to go out. But I will just say, one of the things you can do if you're healthy — you and your family — it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant. Likely you can get in easily," he urged on Fox News. "So, don't run to the grocery store and buy, you know, $4,000 of food. Go, you know, go to your local pub."

The following day, he walked back that suggestion, telling Fox News' Sean Hannity he meant that "you can go through the drive-thru, you can do takeout. It's a great place to go." But his original comments had made no mention of either — and pubs typically do not have drive-thru windows.

Nunes' latest comments stand in stark contrast to what public health experts and even Donald Trump have urged.

On Sunday, the Trump administration extended social distancing guidelines until at least May, abandoning Trump's earlier suggestion that the country could reopen by April 12.

On Monday, Trump told Fox News, "We're doing a lot of things and we don't want to [end social distancing measures] too soon." Noting that he expected cases to peak around Easter, he suggested that April 30 "is a day where we can see some real progress" and that by June, the death toll "will be brought to a very low number."

On Tuesday, Trump warned that Americans would "go through a very tough two weeks" with significant numbers of new COVID-19 cases and deaths. His administration predicted that, even with social distancing measures, the nation's death toll could be between 100,000 and 240,000.

Experts have recommended every state issue stay-at-home orders to slow community spread of the coronavirus. But Trump himself has not urged this step, and several GOP-controlled states have still not heeded that advice.

Despite Nunes' spin, the crisis continues to worsen. According to the COVID Tracking Project, which collects the most recent testing data from each state, 184,770 people in the United States had tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday — an increase of more than 24,000 from the previous day. More than 3,700 people have died.

Nearly 7,000 of those cases have been confirmed in California; 150 people in the state have died. Researchers at the University of Washington estimate California may not reach its peak number of cases until April 26.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.