House

Nunes urges Americans to 'stop panicking': 'It's a great time to just go out' if you're healthy

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Sunday urged Americans to "stop panicking" as more cases of the novel coronavirus are reported in the country and called it "a great time" for those who are healthy to "just go out."

The remarks by Nunes, who serves as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, came during an interview on Fox News on Sunday morning, just two days after President Trump declared a national emergency over the outbreak of COVID-19, which has killed thousands of people worldwide.

When pressed by Fox News's Maria Bartiromo on her morning show about his thoughts on the Trump administration's response to the spread of the virus, Nunes said, "Well, most importantly, I think what American people have to understand is we need to stop panicking."

"There's no shortage of food in this country," he said before going on to urge against panic-buying at supermarkets. "People don't need to go to the store and fight over a bottle of water or toilet paper." 

While Nunes said the country needs to focus its energy on seniors with underlying health concerns, whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary travel amid the outbreak, the California Republican added that now is a "great time" for healthy people and their families to go outside.

"There's a lot of concerns with the economy here because people are scared to go out," Nunes said. "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." 

"Let's not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going," he said. "Don't run to the grocery store and buy, you know, $4,000 of food." 

His comments were met with some confusion online when juxtaposed with earlier comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is helping lead the Trump administration's response to the outbreak. 

During his appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday morning, Fauci said that "younger people should be concerned" about the spread of the virus, for which there is not a vaccine, adding that "you are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill."

"There are people that are young who are going to get ill," he said.

He also urged young people to take extra precautions even if they're not feeling ill, as they can be carriers for the disease.

"You can bring it to a person, who can bring it to person, who can bring it to your grandmother or grandfather or elderly relative," he said, adding, "I would like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction we see in restaurants and bars."

Since Fauci's comments, a few state officials have come out and said they are considering closing down restaurants and bars in the wake of the outbreak to curb the spread of the disease, including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R). 

The mixed messages from Nunes and Fauci come as Trump has faced backlash over the past few months for seeking to downplay concerns about the virus.

"We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It's like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we're in very good shape," Trump said at one point in early February.

Now, according to Johns Hopkins University data, more than 156,400 cases have been confirmed worldwide, including more than 2,000 in the U.S. There have also been more than 5,800 deaths reported overall as well as more than 73,000 recoveries.

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