GOP senator: People will ignore virus safety rules so we should just get rid of them

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'At least the people in my state are just gonna stop complying,' Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said Thursday that statewide stay-at-home orders should be lifted because his constituents will simply ignore them anyway.

On Fox News, he made the argument that state and federal social distancing guidelines aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic have been a "Nightmare on Elm Street" and that they should be ended.

"We can't sustain this," he said. "Number one, the economy will collapse. And number two, at least the people in my state are just gonna stop complying."

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Kennedy claimed that, although he does "respect" Gov. John Bel Edwards' extension of stay-at-home orders until May 15, he thinks the governor "hasn't been able to completely convince the people of Louisiana" that it was necessary to do so. "Many of my people are opening up. Many Louisianians and many Americans — many of us can't earn a living behind a laptop. Many of us don't live in the Hamptons and eat quinoa summer salads," he said.

Edwards issued an order on March 22 requiring most people in the state to stay at home except when doing essential things such as getting food, obtaining medical care, or working in vital fields. When he extended the order last week, he noted that "in several regions across the state, new cases and hospitalizations continue to increase or to plateau."

The governor plans to reevaluate the situation on May 15, but some Louisiana Republican lawmakers are threatening to take away his emergency authority entirely to lift the order. Edwards' office said that such a move could cost the state millions in federal reimbursement of state emergency spending.

Polling in Louisiana in the last month showed that most registered voters strongly support their governor's handling of the crisis. Less than 10% of the voters polled said they believed the response of the state and the federal government to be "overreacting," and 68% approve of Edwards' handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationwide polling has shown widespread support for stay-at-home orders. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted April 16 through 20 found that roughly "8 in 10 Americans say they support measures that include requiring Americans to stay in their homes and limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer — numbers that have largely held steady over the past few weeks."

A KFF Health Tracking Poll released April 23 found a similar result: that 80% of Americans believe "strict shelter-in-place measures are worth it in order to protect people and limit the spread of coronavirus." Even Republicans agreed, by a 61% to 38% margin.

That poll also found that 81% of Americans believe they could follow strict social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines for at least another month to help reduce the pandemic's spread.

Kennedy has been pushing for weeks to end social distancing rules, suggesting that the economy is more important than public health.

But experts say reopening too quickly could hurt both public health and the economy.

The nation's top epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned last month that "unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen."

More than 28,000 coronavirus cases and 1,800 deaths have been reported so far in Louisiana.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.