House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday criticized President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic by saying that "as the president fiddles, people are dying."
Pelosi, D-Calif., made the remark when asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether Trump should relax some of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing in parts of the country that have yet to suffer major outbreaks.
Trump said last week that he wants much of the country to return to normal by Easter and that he is reconsidering his administration's social distancing guidelines.
"Well, first of all, let me just say how sad it is that, even since the president's signing of the [coronavirus emergency bill], the number of deaths reported has doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 in our country," Pelosi said. "This is such a very, very sad time for us. So we should be taking every precaution. What the president — his denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where — it continues — his delay in getting equipment to where it's needed is deadly.
"And now I think 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," she continued. "We have to have testing, testing, testing — that's what we said from the start — before we can evaluate what the nature of it is in some of these other regions, as well."
She pressed to find out how early Trump was made aware of the possibility of such an outbreak stemming from the coronavirus.
"That's for an after-action review," she said. "But as the president fiddles, people are dying. And we have to — we just have to take every precaution."
Trump has strongly defended his administration's actions. He said Friday: "We have done a hell of a job. The federal government has really stepped up." He also blasted governors he thought were not "appreciative" enough of his administration's efforts.
"All I want them to do — very simple — I want them to be appreciative," he said. "I don't want them to say things that aren't true. I want them to be appreciative. We've done a great job. And I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about Mike Pence, the task force. I'm talking about FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers."
Pointing to Trump's remarks earlier this year downplaying the potential for such an outbreak, Pelosi said the attitude cost some Americans their lives.
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"I'm saying that, because ... the other day, when he was signing the bill, he said, just think, 20 days ago, everything was great," Pelosi said. "No, everything wasn't great. We had nearly 500 cases and 17 deaths already. And in that 20 days, because we weren't prepared, we now have 2,000 deaths and 100,000 cases. So, again ... we really want to work in a unifying way to get the job done here, but we cannot continue to allow him to continue to make these ... underestimates of what is actually happening here. This is such a tragedy."
Pelosi's remarks come as the much of the nation is shut down to contain the spread of the disease, which first appeared in China late last year. As of Sunday morning, about 122,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., the highest total of any nation, with at least 2,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, was asked whether he thinks there's "blood" on Trump's hands.
"I think that's a little too harsh," Biden said.