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Sen. Johnson suggests restrictions on bars may be necessary to prevent the spread of COVID

Johnson said the U.S. "overreacted" to the coronavirus, but said bar restrictions may need to be put in place.

Johnson said the U.S. "overreacted" to the coronavirus, but said bar restrictions may need to be put in place.

Image By: Abigail Waldo

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Wisconsin may need to consider more stringent regulations for bars going forward, expressing concern over the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Johnson said Wednesday during an online event with Axios he considers all businesses essential, but the approach of allowing people into bars without restrictions may not be best for public safety. He did not propose how bars could restrict patrons, but suggested future stimulus bills would have extra money available to local bars affected by regulations in the future.

Small businesses have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and would have to be addressed using a more specific funding mechanism than current efforts, according to Johnson. Though, he did note not all American businesses are doing poorly.

“Amazon is doing great,” Johnson said.

In terms of pandemic preparedness, Johnson said he would “probably give a pretty low grade” to current and previous administrations, but added everyone involved with the response has earned “pretty high marks.”

“I’m not overly critical of our elected officials like the President, or local legislators and mayors,” Johnson said. “Everyone is doing the best they can.”

He said the U.S. may want to look at a model of reopening similar to Sweden, noting their death rate is “better than countries like the UK and Spain.”

Sweden has allowed its economy to stay mostly open, allowing citizens to move freely around the country, while the high-risk and elderly have mostly self-quarantined to stay safe.

"In hindsight, I think we overreacted. We closed too much of our economy down, and I don't think we focused enough on what we needed to do: isolate the sick, quarantine them, protect the vulnerable," Johnson said.

However, COVID-19 data shows Sweden’s death rate is about 522 per million people, while in the U.S., 379 per million have died.

“We have to make sure we are always looking at the science,” Johnson said.

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