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Bars? Restaurants? Pools? Mitt Romney wants people to know where COVID-19 risk is greatest

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Sen. Mitt Romney sits and listens while attending the HELP Hearing: Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act on Capitol Hill in 2019.

Cheryl Diaz Meyer, for the Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Bars? Airplanes? Swimming pools?

Sen. Mitt Romney wants the nation’s medical experts to pinpoint where people are at the greatest risk for COVID-19, especially given the recent surge in positive cases across the country.

After months of fighting the novel coronavirus, it’s unacceptable that there isn’t clear and comprehensive data to show where people are getting infected and how the virus is spreading, the Utah Republican said.

Romney had lots of questions about disease transmission for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

“Now it’s end of June, and hopefully we’ve learned something about how this disease actually spreads,” Romney said. “Where is the risk greatest? How is it that it is spreading?”

Government asked people to shut down their lives, cut down on flying, holding family reunions and funerals and going to restaurants, bars and theaters, he said, but people need to go back out.

Outdoor activities are always better than indoor activities, Fauci told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“Bars really not good, really not good. Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We’ve really got to stop that right now, when you have areas that are surging like we see right now,” he said.

Fauci emphasized social distancing, wearing masks and hand-washing. Public health measures, he said, should not be seen as an obstruction but a vehicle to opening up. It doesn’t have to be all or none.

“You don’t want to just restrict everything because people are not going to tolerate that,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to get people to get out and enjoy themselves within the safe guidelines that we have, so make public health work for you as opposed to against you.”

Redfield said 130 counties in the United States are considered hot spots right now, while many other places have limited transmission. He said people should be aware of the area they are in and what precautions to take.

“I will say there is more and more data showing that the use of face coverings and masks are an effective way to prevent transmission in these gatherings,” he said.

Romney said it would be “extraordinarily” helpful if there is data that indicated where people are getting infected as they go about their lives.

“Were they in a bar? Were they in a restaurant? Were they outdoors at a pool?” he said. “How many people, for instance, have been infected as a result of flying on airplanes? We have to know that.”

Given how long the pandemic has gone on, there needs to be more data so people know where there is greater risk, he said.

“If we could publish that information for the American people, they will know where they can be safe and go back,” Romney said. “And of course, continuing social distancing and wearing masks, but we need that data.”