Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, on Sunday encouraged healthy people to dine out at restaurants, contradicting public health advisories that strongly encouraged social distancing and discouraged Americans from attending mass gatherings.
In an appearance on Fox News, Mr. Nunes said Americans should stop fighting over groceries and toilet paper.
“There’s a lot of concerns with the economy here because people are scared to go out,” he said. “But I will just say, one of the things you can do is, 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. Let’s not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going.”
On Twitter on Sunday afternoon, he wrote that there was no food shortage and not to panic. “If healthy, support local workers and economy — shop and eat local!” he wrote.
Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, a Republican, also encouraged people to support local businesses. On Twitter on Saturday, he shared a photo of his family at a packed food hall called the Collective OKC in the heart of Oklahoma City.
In the Twitter post, which has been since deleted, he wrote: “Eating with my kids and all my fellow Oklahomans at the @CollectiveOKC. It’s packed tonight! #supportlocal #OklaProud.”
Public health experts, however, are urging just the opposite: Stay home if you can.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have encouraged people to avoid highly populated areas to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
They’ve recommended practicing “social distancing” — increasing the physical space between people. By maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others when possible, the spread of the virus might be slowed.
Representatives from the offices of Mr. Nunes and Mr. Stitt could not be immediately reached on Sunday afternoon.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on the Sunday morning news programs and said that Americans would have to make personal sacrifices and comply with government guidelines to avoid a “worst-case scenario.”
He said stronger efforts were coming to slow the spread of the coronavirus over the next several weeks, a period he characterized as crucial for controlling the outbreak.
“Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” he cautioned on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
In an interview on CNN, Dr. Fauci said that disruptions to daily life were likely to continue.
“For a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States,” he said. “We have to just accept that if we want to do what’s best for the American public.”
Vanessa Swales contributed reporting.
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