Live

Watch CBSN Live

Devin Nunes says keeping schools closed for coronavirus is "way overkill" and Americans should get back to work soon

California Congressman Devin Nunes, who has for weeks been contradicting public health experts on the coronavirus response, said Tuesday he thinks it's "way overkill" for his state to cancel school through the end of the semester because of the pandemic. He also suggested schools and the economy could return to normal in as little as two weeks — even though the Trump administration has extended its social distancing guidelines through the end of April.

His remarks came just hours after President Trump specifically warned that the next two weeks would be "very, very painful" for the country. Tuesday also turned out to be America's deadliest day yet from the virus, and the White House told Americans to expect at least 100,000 deaths even with social distancing measures.

"The schools were just cancelled out here in California, which is way overkill," Nunes said on Fox News. "It's possible the kids could have went back to school in two weeks to four weeks. But they just cancelled the rest of the schools."

School districts around California have been closed to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and the state's top education official recommended Tuesday that students should not return through the end of this school year.

California has confirmed more than 8,500 coronavirus cases so far. Governor Gavin Newsom told "CBS This Morning" he believes early distancing actions helped stop that number from being even higher.

Nunes said politicians and the media should focus less on the death rate from coronavirus and more on the economy.

"Let's stop looking at the death counters and let's talk about how we can keep as many people employed as possible," the Republican congressman said.

Later in the interview, he added, "I will tell you this, if we don't get to start to get 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. I just don't know of any economy that's ever survived where you unplugged the entire economy and expect things to go back and be normal."

The White House coronavirus task force has given no indication that things will return to normal so soon, even as President Trump says he wants to reopen the economy as quickly as possible.  Mr. Trump said he didn't expect to see "the bottom of the hill" in the coronavirus battle until June 1. 

The White House warned Tuesday that even with social distancing measures, America should expect 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the virus. Without those mitigation efforts, experts said up to 2.4 million Americans could die from coronavirus.

Nunes has been downplaying the coronavirus threat ever since the virus started shutting down major parts of American life. 

"There's a lot of concerns with the economy here because people are scared to go out," he said in a Fox News interview March 15, as White House officials started warning Americans against public gatherings. "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 easy."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue