Two of President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers said Sunday that Americans face an economy that will worsen in the coming months, with predictions that the unemployment rate will jump to 20 percent from the 14.7 percent reported Thursday.
Speaking three days after the Labor Department reported its worst unemployment figures since the Great Depression, the advisers predicted that unemployment will continue to climb.
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he thinks the unemployment rate will jump to 20 percent by next month, up from 14.7 percent reported Thursday.
And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday” that he expects the second quarter of this year to be even worse than the first. “The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better,” Mnuchin told Chris Wallace, later adding: “I think you’re going to have a very, very bad second quarter.”
When asked by Wallace whether the country’s unemployment number was “close to 25 percent at this point, which is Great Depression neighborhood,” Mnuchin said, “Chris, we could be.”
In the first three months of 2020, the U.S. economy shed 20.5 million jobs, wiping out a decade of employment gains in a single month. The job market’s historic plunge was far worse than what the nation experienced during the 2008 financial crisis. No industry has been spared, even white-collar jobs in government and business services thought to be relatively safe.
Still, Mnuchin expressed confidence in the fundamentals of the economy. He argued that the job market should begin to right itself by September as he echoed Trump’s calls for a phased reopening of the economy. This economic crisis “is no fault of American business, it is no fault of American workers, it is the fault of a virus,” Mnuchin said.
As several states lifted quarantine measures this weekend, allowing businesses and public spaces to reopen, Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, warned that even a partial reopening of the country could pose life-threatening risks to 1 in 3 Americans.
During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Inglesby noted that a third of Americans were either older than 65 or had underlying health conditions, making them vulnerable to severe infection from the coronavirus. With many states struggling to ramp up diagnostic capabilities, there was still no way to reopen the country without exposing that population, he said.
“This disease moves quickly,” Inglesby told Wallace, “and it doesn’t respect city borders or state borders.”
“I think we need a strategy that works for everyone,” he added. “I don’t think there can be a strategy that works for half the country, with an attempt to keep the other part of the country in some sort of large isolation. I don’t think it would work logistically or practically.”
Playing a clip of Trump’s assertion last week that the virus will dissipate on its own, without a vaccine, Wallace asked Inglesby whether the virus could go away soon.
“I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests,” Trump said Friday. “This is going to go away without a vaccine. It’s going to go away, and we are not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time.”
Inglesby pushed back on Trump’s claim, saying the United States is still in the early stages of the pandemic and would need a vaccine, in addition to improved diagnostic and tracing capabilities, to go back to normal.
“No, this virus is not going to go away,” he said. “Hopefully, over time, we will learn to live with it, and we will be able to reduce the risk of transmission. But it’s going to stay as a background problem to the country, and around the world, until we have a vaccine.”
Residents in Washington state who complained about businesses violating Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus restrictions have faced harassment and threats of violence after their contact information was posted on Facebook pages of conservative groups, the Seattle Times reports.
One woman said she received a voice mail from someone telling her, “You got 48 hours to get the (expletive) out of Washington, or I am coming for you, and your loved ones,” according to the Times. Another caller reportedly told the woman, “I hope you choke on the (expletive) virus.”
The residents’ names, emails and phone numbers appeared in a spreadsheet shared last week by groups called Washington Three Percenters and Reopen Washington State, both of which have promoted recent protests over restrictions intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Times reported.
A spokeswoman for the state’s pandemic response office told the newspaper that the groups probably got the information through public records requests for complaints that have been filed.
The state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been held up by public health experts as one of the pandemic’s success stories. Despite being one of the earliest states to report deadly disease clusters, the state has maintained relatively low rates of infection and death – a flattening of the curve that experts have attributed to quick and aggressive action from state officials.
But the ongoing stay-at-home order from Inslee, a Democrat, has drawn ire from some groups, which argue that the economic costs are outweighing the public health benefits of keeping residents indoors. For the second time in three weeks, hundreds of people rallied in the state capital on Saturday to protest the restrictions.
Similar protests have unfolded nationwide, buoyed by Trump’s push for a swift reopening of the U.S. economy.
Illinois’ governor expects social distancing and mask-wearing in public to be the new normal in his state until the medical community develops a vaccine or highly effective treatment for the coronavirus.
“The truth is the coronavirus is still out there,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Illinois entered Phase 2 of Pritzker’s five-phase blueprint for managing the virus when the governor did not extend his stay-at-home order beyond May 1, allowing nonessential retail stores to reopen for curbside pickup and enabling outdoor activities such as golfing, boating and fishing to resume as long as participants continue practicing social distancing.
During his CNN appearance, Pritzker, a Democrat, said golf courses have been instructed to take additional precautions, such as limiting parties and requiring people to bring their own clubs, wear masks and refrain from using carts.
“We’re being very careful,” he told Tapper.
In terms of raw numbers, Illinois has reported the fourth-most cases of all 50 U.S. states. When adjusted for population, Illinois falls further down the list. Pritzker said on CNN that the state has seen a spike in case numbers because it has ramped up testing.
Health officials, he said, are monitoring positivity rates, hospitalization rates and the availability of beds. He said Illinois is also implementing a contact-tracing system in the model of Massachusetts’s covid-19 Community Tracing Collaborative.
Pritzker also briefly took aim at the White House.
“I have not been counting on the White House because there have been too many situations in which they’ve made promises and not delivered,” he said. “We’re going it alone, as the White House has left all the states to do.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Saturday night lifted the state’s ban on in-person religious services after a federal judge said the restrictions on faith-based gatherings were unjustified.
The ban was part of the prohibitions on gatherings of 10 or more people the governor announced in March as coronavirus clusters emerged in Kentucky. It was set to expire May 20 before the ruling earlier Saturday from U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove temporarily halted it.
“We planned to let them resume in-person services on May 20, but a court ruling allows them to begin doing so immediately,” Beshear, a Democrat, said.
The governor urged churches and worshipers to continue taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Don’t come back just to come back,” he said. “Make sure your sanctuary is just that.”
Restrictions on church services have been a flash point in debate over state officials’ authority to make social distancing and movement restrictions compulsory as they try to contain the coronavirus outbreak within their borders.
Churches and governors around the country are wrapped up in litigation over whether the orders infringe on people’s First Amendment rights to freely practice their religion. In some places, pastors who have defied the orders have been issued criminal citations.
Some officials, including Beshear, have tried to alleviate concerns by encouraging religious leaders to hold drive-through services or stream their sermons online.
The Trump administration has filed at least two statements of support defending churches in lawsuits challenging coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship.
A popular Cape Cod ice cream shop that reopened Friday had to close hours later after customers angry about dessert orders being backed up started harassing employees, the owner said.
Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour owner Mark Lawrence said it was “one of the worst experiences” in his 19 years of owning the shop.
Although he had set a rule that orders had to be received an hour ahead of pickup, customers were showing up at his shop early, demanding their ice cream, Lawrence wrote on his business’s Facebook page. He said one of his best workers, a teenager, quit her job because of the barrage of abusive comments.
“Regardless of people’s frustrations to take it out on a teenage girl is simply WRONG,” he wrote. “It cost one of my best employees due to the rudeness directed at her tonight. So wrong in so many ways to treat a teenager with such disrespect no matter the circumstances.”
Lawrence had opened the shop quietly Friday ahead of Mother’s Day Weekend, he told Boston 25 News. But a surge in people ordering dessert quickly crushed the lean staff he had behind the counter. While the number of orders was enough for a staff of seven, he said, only four employees were working that night. About 7 p.m., Lawrence posted on Facebook: “STOP CALLING.”
Lawrence didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post, but he wrote on Facebook that he would still consider other ways to sell his ice cream safely.
“After a long hard look at the events of last night, it is obvious that the plan I created cannot handle the surge of demand out there,” he said Saturday. “So, in order to not destroy the business, I have grown for the past 19 years, it is best to not open to the General Public for the time being. Stay tuned as we explore options.”
Trump on Sunday cheered the reopening of his oceanfront golf course in Los Angeles County, which had been closed for seven weeks as part of California’s coronavirus shutdown.
“So great to see our Country starting to open up again!” he wrote in an early morning tweet.
The golf course shut its doors in mid-March when the county ordered nonessential businesses to close in an effort to contain the outbreak.
It was one of at least four properties owned by the Trump Organization that had to shutter as the pandemic swept across the United States. Three hotels also laid off staff at the time, underscoring the pandemic’s sharp impact on the Trump Organization, which relies heavily on tourism, event bookings and restaurant income.
On Friday, Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles excitedly announced it was starting back up Saturday. “Book your tee time now!” read a tweet from the club’s Twitter account.
The move came as California, one of the earliest states hit by the pandemic, took baby steps toward easing restrictions that have kept its 40 million residents confined to their homes except for essential activities.
Golfing has been allowed to resume in Los Angeles County, but golfers still have to follow a rules if they decide to hit the links. Tee times must be at least 10 minutes apart and are limited to four players. Tournaments are barred; players must maintain six feet of distance from one another; and golfers can’t touch or remove the flagstick.
A group of law enforcement officers, nurses and other essential employees from Los Angeles city and county staged a protest Wednesday at the property decrying working conditions and calling on the federal government to set aside more stimulus money for front-line workers.
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The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg contributed to this report.