Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday, seemed to back states that are rolling back their coronavirus reopenings as cases surge – in some places threatening hospital capacity – and supported general safety measures, like masks, advocated by public health experts.
The comments from Conway, one of President Trump’s closest advisers, come as more top Republicans, including Vice President Pence, begin openly supporting mask-wearing and other measures as a way to ensure the U.S. doesn’t backslide in its coronavirus response. President Trump has yet to openly do the same while he pushes for a fast reopening of the country.
“We need to have priorities in our states and in this nation. Do you want to open the bars now, or do you want to open the schools and the day care centers in a few short weeks? I vote for the latter,” Conway said.
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As of Wednesday morning, 17 states are delaying or pausing their reopening plans, with some reclosing establishments like bars and gyms, and others requiring masks in public indoor spaces and outdoor spaces where social distancing is difficult. Conway echoed calls by many about the importance of opening up schools in-person for the fall in order to support not just children’s learning, but also working parents.
“We know that opening our schools and getting our children back to their normal routines and their structural supports is really the key,” she said. “I think it’s the central nervous system to this nation, and that people will be able to go back to work.”
Conway added: “We’re creating a pandemic within a pandemic forgetting these kids. Not every kid lives in a safe house. Not every mother can deal with the horror of knowing she can’t support her children, she’s not back to work yet. She can’t feed them and shelter them. We need to make sure these kids have the services they need.”
Later in the interview, Conway backed health measures like mask-wearing and social distancing — actions the president has been reluctant to support, as underscored by his recent rally in Tulsa, Okla., which saw little social distancing and most in attendance, including Trump, maskless.
“Wearing masks, social distancing, all this stuff we know, it really does stop the spread. And I encourage people to do that,” Conway said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a speech on the Senate floor Monday, was one of many Republicans in recent days to underscore the importance of mask-wearing.
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Conway also said to “Fox & Friends” that some of the higher numbers of positive coronavirus tests in the U.S. — without corresponding jumps in hospitalizations and deaths — could be because of expanded testing and updated public health guidance, as well as young people going into crowded settings.
“We’re seeing rising cases in those states of younger people. Not teenagers not kids, thank God, but say 25- to 34-year-olds. Why? Two big reasons I’m told by the professionals,” she said. “One is many of those people went out to the bars, which reopened. Two is many of them are going back to work and their employers are saying before you come back to your place of work you must take a COVID test.”
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Conway added: “Dr. Birx said something very important that stuck in my mind last week. She said earlier in the COVID infection process, months ago, if you were young and had mild symptoms, you were told ‘stay home.’ Now you’re told ‘come get a test.’ So they are being tested and they are testing positive.”
Some states, however, are seeing their hospital systems threatened, including Arizona and Oregon.
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“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Monday. “I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing. If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public.”
Meanwhile, some are upset about the whiplash changes in reopenings and public health guidance. Bethany Mandel, an editor at Ricochet and a podcaster, this week addressed the fact that mere months ago the U.S. government discouraged people from buying and wearing masks before evidence of asymptomatic spread emerged.
“You want people to wear masks after weeks of telling them not to? Say: ‘We think this helps. We honestly are not sure, but evidence points to it helps.’ Not ‘You’re a selfish idiot of (sic) you don’t do this thing we have suddenly decided will save us but we eschewed 2 months ago,'” she tweeted. “A LITTLE HUMILITY WHEN YOU’VE BEEN CONSISTENTLY WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING. THAT’S WHAT I’M ASKING.”
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But at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been the face of the federal government’s coronavirus response, warned that coronavirus cases in the U.S. could soon increase to 100,000 per day.
“I am very concerned,” he said.
Fauci has previously emphasized that following public health measures like wearing a mask will allow governments to lift coronavirus restrictions faster by reducing the rate the virus spreads.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips and Courtney Lesskis contributed to this report.