The U.S. economy needs another, fourth stimulus bill that could push it to take off again in what is commonly called a "V-shaped recovery," one of the top White House advisers charged with blunting economic damage from the global coronavirus pandemic said on Monday.
"We're going to probably need another phase of stimulus of some sort. We've built a bridge to the other side of this crisis we believe and it looks like we're getting close to opening up in many places around the country. With that, we have to think about what's it going to take to make sure we go back to thriving," White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said in a Fox News Channel interview.
"And I don't think that absent another round of stimulus that it's very likely that you would see a V-shape," he added.
Earlier in the day, he said data suggest U.S. industries appear to be adapting to business amid the nation's coronavirus outbreak, repeating his expectation that while U.S. growth will likely fall to Great Depression-era levels this quarter, it should rebound in the third quarter.
"At the beginning of this, there was rapid, rapid spread sadly in the places where there are a lot of essential workers. But the variance has really, really declined over time suggesting people have learned ... about safe practices," he told CNBC, without offering any specific data.
Hassett spoke as Georgia on Monday allowed residents to dine at restaurants for the first time in a month, as more U.S. states began easing restrictions where the coronavirus outbreak has taken a relatively light toll.
Keen to revive their battered economies despite the warnings of health experts, a handful of states from Montana to Mississippi were also set to reopen some businesses deemed to be nonessential.
Alaska, Oklahoma and South Carolina, along with Georgia, previously took such steps, after weeks of mandatory lockdowns that threw millions of Americans out of work.
President Donald Trump and some local officials had criticized Georgia Governor Brian Kemp for orders that enabled restaurants and theaters to join a list of businesses, such as hair and nail salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors, allowed to reopen last week, with social-distancing restrictions still in force.
Even so, some restaurant owners and managers in the state capital Atlanta said they would not reopen on Monday.
“I have a daughter and I want to be around for her,” Steve Pitts, general manager of Manuel’s Tavern, a fixture for more than 60 years, told Reuters.
In the hardest-hit states of New York and New Jersey, part of a metropolitan region of about 32 million people, governors signaled that even limited restarting of business activities was at least weeks away.
Even though Kemp has allowed movie theaters to reopen, three major chains - AMC, Regal and Cinemark - as well as most or all smaller chains shut all venues nationwide in mid-March and have no plans to reopen anywhere for the time being.
Drive-in theaters may be an exception. The Swan Drive-In Theatre in Blue Ridge, about 90 miles (145 km) north of Atlanta, will open this weekend, with new rules for parking and concessions to assure social distancing, according to a recorded telephone message.
Business shutdowns have led to a record 26.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits since mid-March with forecasts by the Trump administration that the jobless rate would likely hit 16% or more in April.
The states reopening some businesses this week are in the South, Midwest and West. Among them, Tennessee has recorded 181 deaths out of more than 9,600 infections, Minnesota 272 from about 3,600 cases, and Georgia more than 940 deaths from at least 23,700 cases, according to a Reuters tally.
That contrasts with more densely populated New York and New Jersey, which combined account for nearly 30,000 fatalities, or more than half the U.S. total of at least 55,000 as coronavirus cases approached 1 million on Monday.
Public health authorities warn that increasing human interactions and economic activity may spark a fresh surge of infections just as social distancing measures appeared to be bringing cases under control.
Federal guidelines call for a state to record 14 days of declining case numbers before moving ahead with a phased-in relaxation of restrictions and to have testing and contact tracing programs in place. Contact tracing involves tracking down and testing people who may have been near others infected.
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