Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday he expects New York, the financial capital of the U.S. and the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak, will take longer to “reopen” its economy than other parts of the country.
Mnuchin, a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that the administration is eager to restart the areas of the U.S. economy that have been ground to a halt by the deadly pandemic.
But he expects that “we’ll be opening it up based on medical conditions,” rather than prioritizing states’ economic output.
“So obviously we’d like to open up as much GDP as we can,” Mnuchin said, but “my expectations are that places like New York are going to take a little bit longer.”
Trump tweeted later Wednesday that the U.S. will reopen “sooner rather than later.”
“Once we OPEN UP OUR GREAT COUNTRY,” he said, “the horror of the Invisible Enemy, except for those that sadly lost a family member or friend, must be quickly forgotten.”
“Our Economy will BOOM, perhaps like never before!!!” Trump wrote.
In recent weeks, the majority of governors have imposed draconian measures across their states as they try to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Millions of Americans have been ordered to stay in their homes except for essential activities or emergencies. Non-essential businesses have been forced to temporarily shutter their doors. Those efforts to clamp down on COVID-19 have gutted the U.S. economy and prompted an unprecedented spike in unemployment claims.
Trump has repeatedly expressed impatience with the lockdown measures, which his own health experts suggest should be ratcheted up, not down, as the impact of the coronavirus hits its peak.
“Now’s not the time to pull back at all. It’s the time to intensify,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a Fox News interview Wednesday morning.
The president said two weeks earlier that he wanted to see the economy reopened by Easter Sunday – but his administration later extended its social distancing guidelines through the end of April.
Still, Mnuchin said on CNBC that “some areas of the country that have very little disease and are effective at combating this” may be able to revive their damaged economies sooner.
“So I think we’ll look at it on a medical basis,” Mnuchin said.