HHS secretary on people not following social distancing: 'That's part of the freedom that we have'

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that reports of people crowding in bars across the country as some states lift restrictions is “part of the freedom” Americans have. 

“I think in any individual instance you're going to see people doing things that are irresponsible. That’s part of the freedom that we have here in America,” Azar said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about images of crowds at a bar in Columbus, Ohio, as well as similar situations across the country. 

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Azar said the federal government and officials can “give guidance” but said local leaders have the responsibility to implement it for their communities. 

“Part of this is going to be if you're in crowded areas and if you’re in an area that has ongoing community spread of disease, there's steps you should take. That's where our guidance is there for, and we count on local leaders to implement and interpret that according to the local situation,” he said.

He stressed an urgency for states to reopen the economy, adding that there are “serious health consequences” to keeping the economy closed. 

Many states across the country have started easing coronavirus restrictions to varying degrees, including reopening dine-in services as restaurants and bars with limited capacity. 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said he was “absolutely” concerned about crowds when shown the same image of a crowded bar in his state in a separate interview on “State of the Union” and said officials are working with the attorney general to help keep businesses in check.