Jason Chaffetz says coronavirus restriction protesters not 'being as responsible as they could'

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Former House Oversight Committee Chairman and Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz said Monday that people who are protesting state stay-at-home orders around the country amid the coronavirus pandemic are not “being as responsible as they possibly could.”

“I understand people’s frustration,” Chaffetz told “Outnumbered” Monday. “There is a constitutional right to assemble, but these protesters are not doing themselves any good when they stand shoulder to shoulder within six feet of each other, not wearing a mask, and they’re showing a degree of irresponsibility.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include staying at least six feet from other people, staying out of crowded places and wearing a cloth face mask.

The economy has been largely shuttered for weeks to reduce the spread of the virus. New guidelines to reopen the country in three phases were announced by the Trump administration last week, but protests and rallies have gained momentum across the country as unemployment continues to soar.

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More than 22 million people have filed for unemployment over the past month since stay-at-home orders have forced most businesses to close in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Only essential businesses have remained open.

Organized events over the weekend were held in Maryland, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Governors in some of those states have started to roll back stay-at-home restrictions.

Protesters have carried signs declaring that their jobs are “essential for them,” as well as slogans invoking constitutional rights. Critics have pointed out that reopening the country too soon could easily result in a second spike of the virus, negating the progress made over the past month.

“I think they could make their point by showing a little social distancing, by wearing the proper mouth coverings along the way and I think that would be more effective,” Chaffetz said on Monday.

“By the way, I do think that the conservative movement should take this mantra of personal responsibility because I don’t care what the directives are from the government, if you don’t wash your hands and cover your mouth and socially distance yourself, I don’t care what the regulations are, you’re going to put yourself and others in harm’s way,” he added.

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier weighed in saying “it’s going to be a fine balance of getting people back to work and opening up.”

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She acknowledged that “the potential long-term consequences of the economic decline from this COVID-19 pandemic may far outweigh the consequences that we see with the virus itself.”

She also noted that reopening the economy is “not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

“It’s really going to come down to the states and maybe even the counties within the states on what they can do,” Saphier said.

She went on to say that “at this point, now that we are getting more and more information about this virus, we have a better awareness of how it acts, and some ideas of potentially how to treat it and a vaccine is already underway, so now, [the question] is how are we going to stratify the risk for those people who are still at a higher risk or more vulnerable to the severity of this illness? And that is what these governors and the state legislators are going to really have to look at before they start opening things back up.”

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Saphier also noted that employers will also have to answer the question of how they are going to make sure employees are safe when they return to work.