'Real men wear masks': Nancy Pelosi urges caution as the economy reopens

Key Points
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for testing and contact tracing, along with continued precautions such as wearing mask, as the U.S. economy reopens during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Pelosi, in an interview with Jim Cramer on CNBC's "Mad Money," again urged Congress to pass another relief bill, pushing for relief for cash-strapped state and local governments. 
  • U.S. coronavirus cases continue to rise, and Covid-19 has killed more than 107,000 Americans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on June 4, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed Thursday for a robust coronavirus testing and tracing operation, along with sustained precautions such as wearing face coverings, as the U.S. reopens businesses during the pandemic.

"Real men wear masks," the California Democrat told CNBC's Jim Cramer on "Mad Money," in response to a question about some men shunning face coverings in public. "And these masks are essentially important. And if you decide not to wear a mask, you're insulting anyone with whom you come in contact." 

U.S. health officials have said wearing masks reduces the chance of transmitting coronavirus when social distancing is not possible — a priority as Americans start to increase their movement. President Donald Trump has faced backlash for going out in public without covering his face multiple times. 

As the economy restarts, unemployment insurance claims have started to slow — though a whopping 21.5 million people are still filing continuing claims, the Labor Department said Thursday. Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree they need to improve the coronavirus testing infrastructure in order to safely reopen businesses, but they have failed to strike an accord on whether to offer more fiscal relief. 

On "Mad Money," Pelosi again pushed for aid for state and local governments so they do not have to cut essential services as they face budget shortfalls during the pandemic. Last month, the House passed a $3 trillion rescue package that included nearly $1 trillion for states and municipalities. 

She specified that she wants to approve money "strictly" for additional costs incurred and revenue lost because of the coronavirus. Republicans, in expressing skepticism about sending more money to states, have argued governments could use it to cover fiscal mismanagement that predates the pandemic. 

Pelosi added that she is "very concerned" about what would happen if Congress lets the extra $600 per week federal unemployment insurance benefit expire after July. The House bill would extend the provision through January. 

Barring a breakthrough on a coronavirus relief bill that could pass both chambers of Congress, the House is not set to return to Washington until the end of the month. 

Democrats and Republicans have managed to pass one recent bipartisan bill. The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to give small business owners more flexibility in how they can spend federal coronavirus aid and still get loans forgiven, sending it to Trump's desk. 

Infections continue to rise: the U.S. now has more than 1.85 million Covid-19 cases, and the disease has killed at least 107,000 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Pelosi also said the U.S. could not settle for "incremental" change as millions across the country protest police brutality and systemic racism following a string of police-involved killings of black men and women. Earlier, she announced that her party plans to introduce a police reform bill on Monday. 

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