Mnuchin says US could be open for business in May

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that he believed it was possible that the U.S. could open back up next month.

“I do, Jim,” Mnuchin said after CNBC’s Jim Cramer asked about re-opening the economy in May. The comments came during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“I think as soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues,” Mnuchin added. 

Mnuchin said that the administration was doing “everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business and that they have the liquidity that they need to operate their business in the interim.”

The comments came shortly after the Federal Reserve announced new moves designed to get another $2.3 trillion of financing for businesses and municipalities. 

The U.S. economy remains effectively halted amid government efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

President Donald Trump earlier said he hoped that Americans would be able to pack churches by Easter, though the administration later released guidelines calling for social distancing to continue at least through the end of April. Trump declined to provide a date for a re-opening during a White House briefing on Wednesday. 

Trump is already stepping up efforts to re-open the economy. The president is planning to create a second task force designed to focus on the response to the economic devastation that COVID-19 has wrought, a senior administration official told NBC News. 

Experts have cautioned that the re-opening process could be a long one.

“What we are going to have to do is loosen the tap gradually, not open the flood gates,” Dr. Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on MSNBC earlier Thursday.

Frieden said that the U.S. will have to vastly expand the number of daily coronavirus tests it is administering before the process can begin. 

The economic toll from coronavirus has been without precedent. More than 6.6 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, according to data released on Thursday, bringing the number of total claims in just the last three weeks to more than 16 million. 

Congress has sought to provide relief via an emergency $2 trillion stimulus package, with further measures widely expected. 

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