New Jersey congressman says Trump’s coronavirus response should devote more ‘energy’ to public health

Rep. Andy Kim said Tuesday he wishes the White House would tackle the public health challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic with the same “energy” Trump administration officials have exhibited in moving to reopen the national economy.

“I think, for me, what frustrates me is I share that sentiment of wanting to reopen, to get Americans back to work as soon as possible,” the New Jersey Democrat told POLITICO chief economic correspondent Ben White in a virtual interview.

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“And I wish that that energy that the administration is pushing towards that is the same energy that they would bring towards testing and widespread contact tracing and other tools,” Kim continued.

Responding to the congressman’s criticism, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement, “President Trump and his bold actions from the very beginning of this pandemic stand in stark contrast to the Do-Nothing-Democrats who just complain and obstruct.”

Since the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, President Donald Trump has argued aggressively for reopening wide swaths of the country, warning repeatedly that “the cure” of lockdown orders “can’t be worse than the problem itself.”

Following the expiration of federal social distancing guidelines at the end of April, the vast majority of states have begun this month to gradually wind down mitigation measures meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus — hoping the easing of restrictions will not yield new surges in Covid-19 cases.

The administration, too, has reoriented its efforts from fighting the outbreak to jump-starting the economy. Trump announced earlier this month that the focus of the White House coronavirus task force would shift to “SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN,” and he reportedly told governors Monday the federal government “will step in” if needed to assist a state in its bid to reopen.

But Kim, one of the members of a House investigative panel established last month to monitor the administration’s implementation of nearly $3 trillion in coronavirus relief measures, said Tuesday he “would be much more comfortable with these discussions about how to safely reopen if we had transparency in data.”

“So I share that same goal,” he added, “but I differ in terms of the prioritization on public health that I think needs to play a bigger role than where the administration believes.”

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