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Ross suggests coronavirus 'will help to accelerate the return of jobs' to US

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOn The Money: Trump makes a late pitch on the economy | US economy records record GDP gains after historic COVID-19 drop | Pelosi eyes big COVID-19 deal in lame duck It's time to reckon with space junk Census Bureau to hold count through end of October MORE on Thursday suggested that the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus in China would help "accelerate" the return of jobs to the United States. 

Ross made the remarks after China's National Health Commission announced that the death toll from the virus had climbed to 170. China has also confirmed more than 7,700 cases of the virus, which has spread to several countries around the world, including the U.S., where there have been five confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

Speaking in an appearance on Fox Business, Ross said that he did not want to take "victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease," but noted that he thinks the virus could help boost jobs.

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"The fact is, it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chains," Ross, who has served in the Trump administration since 2017, said.

"It’s another risk factor that people need to take account. I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to U.S., probably some to Mexico as well," he added. 

Asked for further comment, a Commerce Department spokesperson told The Hill that Ross "made clear the first step is to bring the virus under control and help the victims of this disease."

"It is also important to consider the ramifications of doing business with a country that has a long history of covering up real risks to its own people and the rest of the world," the spokesperson said.

The outbreak of the coronavirus, which first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, could have a drastic effect on China, the second-largest economy in the world.

A state economist forecast earlier this month estimated that the spread of the virus would reduce the country's first quarter growth by 1 point, causing global stocks to drop and oil prices to fall, Reuters reported.

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the virus would likely disrupt economic growth in East Asia. He added that its effects could be felt throughout the world amid "travel restrictions and business closures."

“There will clearly be implications, at least in the near term, for Chinese output, and I guess for some of their closest neighbors, and we'll just have to see what the effect is globally," he said.

The White House on Wednesday announced the formation of a task force to monitor the coronavirus. Press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamMelania Trump cancels campaign appearance over 'lingering cough' The Memo: Trump grapples with credibility gap in crisis President Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 MORE said that the team had been meeting every day this week as part of an effort to monitor and contain the disease.

"The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and all agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation and to keep the public informed," Grisham said.

Updated at 9:40 a.m.