WASHINGTON – Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., appeared on Fox News on Monday night and walked back previous comments where he had contradicted public health experts and encouraged Americans to “go to a local restaurant” during the coronavirus crisis.
Sunday, Nunes said, “There’s a lot of concerns with the economy here because people are scared to go out. 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. Likely you can get in easily.”
"Go to your local pub," he continued.
Nunes' comments came as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, saying people "should prepare to hunker down significantly."
However, on Monday, Nunes, who is one of President Donald Trump’s top allies in Congress, said that "media freaks don't have a clue what's going on out in the real world" regarding the outbreak, and claimed that during his Sunday Fox News appearance, he was encouraging people to do drive-thru or takeout.
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Many cities around the country are shuttering their restaurants amid the coronavirus outbreak, and only offering takeout options for dining.
Also, six counties across the Bay Area in California, the state Nunes helps represent in Congress, issued a “shelter in place” order on Monday for all residents – requiring roughly 6.7 million people to stay in their homes – in an attempt to slow the coronavirus outbreak.
In a significant increase in measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Trump on Monday issued guidelines that called for Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and to limit discretionary travel.
Though he stopped short of imposing a national quarantine or curfew, Trump said the country may be dealing with a number of restrictions through July or August as a result of the virus.
Trump called for governors in states with evidence of community transmission to close schools in affected and surrounding areas. Bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other venues where groups of people congregate should also be closed in states with evidence of community transmission.
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Trump was pressed about Nunes’ comments during the press conference Monday after issuing the stricter guidelines.
The president claimed he hadn’t heard Nunes’ encouraging of people to go out to restaurants, but said he “disagreed” with the notion.
“We don’t have an order, but I think it’s probably better that you don’t, especially in certain areas,” Trump continued, saying he’d “take a look” at the comments.
Nunes added Monday that "media freaks" are the ones "endangering lives" by "continuing this panic when we have no food shortage in this country."
The U.S. death toll rose to 85, with more than 4,600 known cases as of Monday afternoon. The global deaths surged past 7,100.
Contributing: Gabrielle Canon, John Bacon, Jorge L. Ortiz- USA TODAY. James Ward, Visalia Times-Delta