White House officials downplay chance of COVID-19 ‘second spike’
White House economic officials on Friday downplayed concerns about recent spikes in cases of the novel coronavirus in several U.S. states amid fears on Wall Street about a new wave of COVID-19.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on “Fox & Friends” that the developments did not signify a “second spike” nationally of COVID-19, citing conversations with White House health experts the evening prior.
Speaking later on Fox News, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett described some “embers flaring up” in various states, pointing to troubling data in South Carolina and Arizona, but he insisted that cases nationally continue to decline.
“The battle is not over but the trends that have been so positive in recent weeks have not really deviated sharply … although there are still some hotspots around the country,” Hassett said.
The average number of confirmed cases over a two-week period has doubled or more in Arizona, Arkansas, Oregon and Utah. South Carolina, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida have all set new highs over a seven-day rolling average.
Oregon and Utah have paused their reopenings amid rising cases.
Oregon reported 178 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, an all-time high for the state, while Utah confirmed a new high of 556 new cases last Friday.
Both states were in the process of phased reopening plans but will not move forward while they investigate the increases.
“This is essentially a statewide ‘yellow light.’ It is time to press pause for one week before any further reopening,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said in a statement Thursday evening.
U.S. stocks plummeted on Thursday, with all three major indexes recording their steepest single-day losses since March. The market plunge was in part attributed to concerns about the rising cases.
The Trump administration has signaled it has no interest in the nation having a new series of lockdowns given the economic damage shutting down the country has already had on the country.
The health pandemic has hit the United States during an election year, and President Trump’s poll numbers have fallen in the wake of the crisis.
Kudlow emphasized that the Trump administration does not support shutting down the U.S. economy in the event of a second wave, and he said the United States is more prepared to handle an increase in cases now than it was months ago.
“What you do have is certain spots are seeing a little bit of a jump up, some small metropolitan areas are seeing it,” Kudlow said. “The CDC and the health people are all over it, they’ve sent some task forces out to deal with it. Nowadays we have much better equipment, much more experience, much more testing.”
Hassett while making his comments specifically cited conversations he had with Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.
The White House coronavirus task force held closed-door meetings this week, including one on Thursday, but health officials like Birx and Anthony Fauci have played considerably less of a public role since the White House ended daily coronavirus briefings in April. Kudlow signaled Friday it was possible that Birx would speak in some capacity to news outlets later Friday, but didn’t offer further information.
Health experts have warned that states may need to reverse course and retighten measures if cases continue to rise, which could further damage the economy. Trump has insisted he does not want the country to shut down again in the event of a second wave, though the decision on future closures would ultimately fall to the states.
Last Friday, Trump celebrated a surprising federal jobs report showing that the U.S. added 2.5 million jobs during the month of May, describing the country as embarking on the “greatest comeback in American history.”
Jessie Hellmann and Nathaniel Weixel contributed.
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