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Trump advisers cite need to stop 'permanent' economic toll

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this April 21, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump listens as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Some of Trumps top economic advisers emphasized on Sunday, May 10, the importance of states getting more businesses and offices open. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON – Some of President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers emphasized on Sunday the importance of states getting more businesses and offices open even as the pandemic makes its way to the White House complex, forcing three members of the administration’s coronavirus task force into self-quarantine.

The president and governors who will decide when to reopen their states are facing competing pressures. More economic activity and travel will likely lead to more people contracting COVID-19. But tight restrictions on which businesses can operate are causing millions of people to join the ranks of the unemployed. Decisions about how fast to reopen come with a general election less than six months away, and Trump and other incumbents facing the prospects of seeking another term in the midst of a public health and economic crisis.

“If we do this carefully, working with the governors, I don’t think there’s a considerable risk,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Matter of fact, I think there’s a considerable risk of not reopening. You’re talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public.”

Another 3.2 million U.S. workers applied for jobless benefits last week, bringing the total over the last seven weeks to 33.5 million as states restrict activities to slow the spread of the virus. Mnuchin said the jobless numbers “are probably going to get worse before they get better,” but he expected the economic numbers to improve in the second half of 2020 and that next year would be a “great year.”

Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, announced this past week that his state’s bars and restaurants can fully reopen in two weeks, on May 21, with outside dining allowed a few days earlier. Barbershops, hair salons, nail salons and day spas will also reopen this coming Friday.

He said he wished the number of coronavirus cases were going down, but the state needs to come back “very carefully.”

“We’ve got to try to do two things at once and it’s, you know, no one is underestimating how difficult this is, but it’s something that we have to do,” DeWine said on Fox.

The White House dispatched several of its top economic advisers to hit the Sunday talk shows. The appearances came on the heels of three key advisers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, taking new precautionary steps after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.