House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called out President Trump on Sunday over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that his denial of the seriousness of the pathogen and his delay in ramping up the federal government’s response to it has proved “deadly” for Americans.
“His denial at the beginning was deadly, his delaying of getting equipment ... to where it is needed is deadly, and now the best thing would be to do is to prevent more loss of life, rather than open things up so that, because we just don't know,” Pelosi said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Pelosi also criticized Trump for suggesting that he would relax federal guidelines on business closures and social distancing in parts of the country so far less affected by the coronavirus – arguing that the U.S. “should be taking every precaution” and questioning whether Trump is listening to public health officials’ suggestions.
“As the president fiddles, people are dying. We just have to take every precaution,” she added.
Pelosi’s comments come after the president repeatedly said last week that he wants to open the country back up as soon as possible.
Speaking from the Rose Garden last week during a Fox News town hall, Trump said he "would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter." The holiday this year lands on April 12.
Trump’s hope to open the country back up – and jump-start an economy crippled by the outbreak – has been met with skepticism from many Washington insiders and state and local officials across the country.
“I have to respectively disagree that we’re looking to be done with this soon,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference last week. “We are doing all we can just to get through March. April will unquestionably be worse than March. May could be worse than April."
New York is currently the epicenter of the virus, with more than 53,000 infections reported in the state – more than 30,000 of which are in New York City alone.
Members of Trump’s own Republican Party have also expressed skepticism in Trump’s boost to have the economy up and running by Easter.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who serves as House Republican Conference chair, urged caution on Tuesday, although she didn't explicitly address Trump's comments.
"There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus," Cheney tweeted.
Indeed, health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction -- staying home from work and isolating themselves -- the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.
“That’s really very flexible,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a prominent member of the White House's coronavirus task force, said on Tuesday of Trump's Easter timeline. “You can look at a date but you’ve got to be very flexible and on a literally day-by-day and week-by-week basis. You need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.