“But we don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about,” Johnson continued, in apparent reference to recent guidance issued at the federal and state levels for people to avoid large groups and stay away from bars, restaurants and other businesses to help blunt the spread of coronavirus. “We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu.”
Johnson said that he was not discrediting those restrictions, but said they were disproportionate to the virus’ actual threat.
“I really don’t want to say that” efforts to contain the virus have gone too far, Johnson said. “It may be exactly what we need to do. But again, what I do want to do is put this all in perspective as we move forward here.”
“I’m not saying we’re overreacting … people need to take this seriously,” he said, later adding that “we also need to really understand the costs of potentially going too far here. But nobody knows what too far is, which is what’s so difficult about the situation.”
When asked whether he backed state efforts to limit large gatherings and advocate for social distancing, Johnson replied, “I’m saying, ‘follow the guidelines’ … I’m not being critical of the governors that are closing things down. … I understand it completely. I’m just saying I am hopeful we … can, in the end, put this all in perspective and we can get the economy back on track as soon as possible.”
Johnson pointed to society’s need for hospitals, grocery stores, drug manufacturers and the economy at large to continue to function.
“We can’t all just shut ourselves and stay home. The economy has to move forward,” he said. “And again, a rational reaction to this would recognize the fact that the vast majority of people that get coronavirus will survive without much worse symptoms than a cold or a normal flu.”
CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this story.