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Rep. Devin Nunes calls California coronavirus plan 'way overkill' the same day Trump praises it

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 4/1/2020 By Kate Irby, McClatchy Washington Bureau

Slideshow by photo services

WASHINGTON — On the same day President Donald Trump praised California’s efforts to contain the new coronavirus, Rep. Devin Nunes in a TV interview called the state’s decision to close schools “way overkill” and said he wants people to return to work over the next “week to two weeks.”

His commentary countered recommendations from California Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, who this week advised schools to remain closed through June, and President Trump, whose administration has urged people to maintain social distance at least through the end of April and warned that the virus could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Nunes, a Republican, in recent interviews on Fox News has consistently drawn attention to the potential economic consequences of the stay-at-home orders handed down by governors.

Devin Nunes wearing a suit and tie: Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) questions a witness during the open hearing of the House Intelligence Committe into the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on November 20, 2019. © Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times/TNS Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) questions a witness during the open hearing of the House Intelligence Committe into the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on November 20, 2019.

“If we don’t start getting people back to work in this country over the next week to two weeks — I don’t believe we can wait until the end of April,” he said on Tuesday in his appearance on Fox News’ Ingraham Angle. “I just don’t know of any economy that has ever survived where you unplug the entire economy and expect things to just then go back and be normal.”

Trump, like Nunes, at various times has questioned the stay-at-home orders governors using to slow the spread of the virus. This week, though, he said California is doing a “good job” fighting the virus.


California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19.

“They’ve done a good job, California. Now let’s see what happens, because we could see a spike,” he said. “I mean you don’t know. They could have a spike where all of a sudden it spikes upward.”

California has 8,582 reported cases of coronavirus, a low amount per capita compared to many other states, despite having the first reported case of community spread in the U.S. in early March. For example, Michigan has 7,630 cases and has a population about a fourth the size of California’s.

The total number of cases in Nunes’ home district counties of Fresno and Tulare reached 113 Tuesday, less than a month after the first report, and continues to rise daily. Wednesday, Tulare County announced its second coronavirus-related death.

Nunes has previously downplayed the virus’ threat on Fox. He on March 15 encouraged people to take their families to pubs and restaurants, the same day some governors, including Newsom, told bars and pubs to close and limited restaurants and health officials were recommending that people stay home.

He also said previously that the worst of the coronavirus could be over by Easter, which is April 12.

“There’s a good chance we can get through this in the next couple of weeks and for sure by Easter, because we will have a handle on who’s getting sick and how to treat them,” Nunes told Ingraham on March 17, as public health experts cautioned they didn’t know how long the crisis would last.

Trump said last week he thought Easter would be a good time to reopen businesses widely, citing no evidence but that he thought it would be a “beautiful time.” But he has since extended the social distancing guidelines until the end of April.

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©2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

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