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When Will the Economy Reopen? Top US Officials Have Different Answers

As coronavirus infection rates appear to be stabilizing, top government officials are mulling over when it would be safe to ease the widespread lockdowns that have immobilized the U.S. economy.

More than 558,500 people in the United States are now sick with the virus, and at least 22,100 have died. However, a drop in daily infection rates since Friday’s peak of 35,100 new cases has led authorities — including the country’s leading infectious disease expert as well as a prominent executive at the Federal Reserve — to express opposing views over the economy’s ability to partially return to some normality.

Speaking with CNN on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested that parts of the country could start a “rolling reentry” as soon as next month. The gradual process would depend on the status of the pandemic in various parts of the U.S. and the availability of COVID-19 testing.

“We are hoping that at the end of the month we can look around and say, ‘OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on?'” Fauci said, adding that when such restrictions are eased, “we know that there will be people who will be getting infected. I mean, that is just reality.”

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Fauci’s made his comments on the same day that the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis painted a bleak picture for the economy. Early on Sunday, Neel Kashkari told CBS that the country could be looking at another 18 months before getting back on track, basing this timeline on how far along other countries are in their recovery from the outbreak. He also suggested that officials would need to find alternatives for individuals who aren’t sick to return safely to work.

“This could be a long, hard road that we have ahead of us until we get to either an effective therapy or a vaccine,” he said. “It’s hard for me to see a V-shaped recovery under that scenario.”

Late last week, the central bank unveiled an array of programs expected to make up to $2.3 trillion in loans available to small and mid-size firms as well as cities and states struggling during the pandemic. The funding was offered in addition to the protection plan of the recently enacted stimulus package, also known as the CARES Act.

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