Coronavirus Could Disrupt U.S. Schools and Transportation, Mulvaney Says
(Bloomberg) -- Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that the coronavirus is likely to cause disruptions to everyday life in the U.S., such as school closures and changes to public transportation.
“Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. Maybe see impacts on public transportation? Sure, but we do this. We know how to handle this,” Mulvaney said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C.
But Mulvaney also sought to reassure Americans worried about a potential public-health crisis and stock-market losses tied to the outbreak.
“Really what I’d like to do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours,” he said.
President Donald Trump has attempted to ease concerns over the outbreak this week, portraying the risk to Americans as “very low.” At a press briefing late Wednesday, Trump said, “But, yeah, I think schools should be preparing and, you know, get ready just in case. The words are ‘just in case.’”
Yet Mulvaney’s remarks indicate that the administration is planning for potentially bigger disruptions. He spoke a day after stock markets plunged the most since 2011 over concerns that the coronavirus outbreak would continue to spread and drag down the global economy. There are now more than 83,000 cases of the virus worldwide, with infections spreading in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Germany quarantined about 1,000 people and Switzerland banned large events, leading to the Geneva car show being canceled. Iran and South Korea revealed more coronavirus cases and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, confirmed the first infection south of the Sahara desert.
Equity markets tumbled in Asia and Europe and U.S. futures weakened, while yields on Treasuries maturing in two and five years slid to the lowest level since 2016. Brent crude dipped below $50 a barrel for the first time since December 2018.
Speaking Friday, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said he would back interest-rate reductions if the coronavirus develops into a worldwide pandemic, but last year’s cuts are already supporting the economy.
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