Mnuchin warns of 'permanent economic damage' if country doesn't reopen

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities MORE on Sunday said reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic must be done in a "thoughtful way" but that not lifting lockdown measures could lead to "permanent economic damage."

Public health experts have cautioned that allowing public life to restart too quickly and without proper safety protocols in place could cause another spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, which would in turn force states to shut down their economies all over again, causing further economic damage. But Mnuchin said keeping things shut down is also a risk.

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“I think there’s a considerable risk of not reopening. You’re talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public,” he told Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceNearly 40 Democratic senators call for climate change questions in debates Webb: Political Reality Check The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November MORE on "Fox News Sunday."

“We’re going to reopen in a very thoughtful way that gets people back to work safely, that has them social distance,” Mnuchin said, adding that under such a scenario, “people will be able to go into stores” and “some of them will have reservations.”

The debate over when and how to reopen has raged for a number of weeks as weekly unemployment claims continued to rise and a Friday jobs report found a 14.7 unemployment rate in April, with some experts projecting the rate could be as high as 25 percent.

“These are not large numbers because the economy isn’t doing well. These are large numbers because we’ve shut down the economy,” Mnuchin said Sunday.

He added that this projection of 25 percent unemployment is because "we closed down the economy" in 2020, "unlike the Great Depression, where we had economic issues."

Mnuchin said that “the reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better” but predicated stronger third and fourth quarters and added that “next year is going to be a great year.”

Mnuchin also said he remained optimistic on potential supply chain issues, telling Wallace, “I see the glass as half full and not half empty. ... Yes, there are issues, but we’re working through those issues. The task force is working through those issues when we see them. The task force is figuring out how to fix them.”