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Pelosi warns of deadly risks if country reopens too soon

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday warned against reopening the country prematurely, saying the public health threat posed by the deadly coronavirus is a greater evil than the current economic hardship facing businesses and workers nationwide.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Pelosi roundly rejected the notion — one being promoted by a growing number of Republicans — that lifting social distancing restrictions for the sake of boosting the economy is worth the increased risk of spreading the coronavirus, even if it means more deaths.

The Speaker is calling for more widespread testing around the country, to gauge the regional prevalence of the deadly virus, before scaling back locally imposed prevention measures.

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"I heard one of them say: 'Well, people will die — or we'll open up the economy and people will die — so that's the lesser of two evils,'" Pelosi said.

"No, it's the greater of two evils to open up the economy in a way that is not science-based, that isn't based on the health and the well-being of the American people."

Pelosi was referring to comments made earlier in the week by Rep. Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research The Hill's 12:30 Report: Presidential race tightens in key states MORE (R-Ind.), who told a local news outlet that elected officials should prioritize steps to promote an economic rebound over those to protect public health.

"It is always the American government's position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life of American lives, we have to always choose the latter," he said Tuesday in an interview with Indianapolis's WIBC radio station.

“It is policymakers' decision to put on our big-boy and big-girl pants and say, ‘This is the lesser of these two evils.'"

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The idea of a quick societal reopening is gaining more and more steam with Republicans, who are warning that a prolonged economic shutdown would do more damage to the United States than the coronavirus itself.

"Trying to burn down the village to save it is foolish," Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told Fox News Wednesday night.

Those voices include President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE, who wants to have much of the economy back up and running by May 1 — and sooner in certain regions of the country where the number of coronavirus cases has been low.

Although the ultimate decision will fall to state and local officials, Trump is expected to release guidelines on Thursday providing governors with recommendations for relaxing social distancing and other mitigation efforts.

“The battle continues, but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases,” Trump said Wednesday from the Rose Garden. “These encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines on states for reopening the country."

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The question of how and when to reopen the country amid the coronavirus crisis would be tough enough in any political environment, but it has taken on additional significance in a presidential election year when Trump has hoped that a robust economy would lift him to reelection.

The pandemic's historic toll on jobs and retail sales has threatened to foil Trump's ride-the-economy strategy, fueling the GOP's push to reopen the country as quickly as possible.

Yet, public health experts — including those on Trump's own coronavirus response team — have cautioned against a hasty return to normalcy, warning that relaxing prevention guidelines too soon will lead to a spike in cases, likely deflating the same economic recovery the reopening had aimed to foster.

Pelosi and most Democrats have joined those medical experts, maintaining that there can be no real economic rebound until the health threat is contained.

"We all know that this is an assault on the lives, and the livelihoods, of the American people," Pelosi said. "But again, we want to have it be science-based, informed by those who can take a measure of what is the prospect of this getting worse should we relax shelter-in-place and the rest of it."

"These are all judgments, and good judgment is based on knowledge," she added. "And knowledge springs from, in this case, testing, testing, testing."