The U.S. economy will be able to ride out any disruption from the global spread of coronavirus, a top White House adviser said on Tuesday, adding that he is not anticipating the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates to blunt the virus' economic impact.
National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said in an interview on CNBC that the virus has so far been tightly contained in the United States despite calls by federal public health officials for businesses and others to prepare for possible major disruption.
"This is very tightly contained in the U.S.," Kudlow told CNBC, adding any such emergency planning does not mean a wider outbreak of the virus will come to pass in the United States.
"I'm not hearing the Fed's going to make any panic move," he said, referring to growing market expectations that the virus will push the U.S. central bank to cut rates.
“Apart from the virus, I have said I wouldn’t mind seeing my friends at the Fed be a little bolder in their target rate and their balance sheet. I said that before the virus, that’s not related to the virus,” he said.
“There will be some stumbles. We’re looking at numbers; it’s a little iffy,” Kudlow said. ”But at the moment ... there’s no supply disruptions out there yet,” he said
Still, Kudlow said the U.S. is “holding up nicely,” adding: “All I can do is look at the numbers.”
U.S. health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday raised the alarm about the likely spread of coronavirus and urged Americans to get prepared now, following swift-moving outbreaks in China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has sought to downplay any potential U.S. outbreak or the impact to the nation's economy.
Kudlow on Tuesday praised U.S. health officials for "preparing for any eventualities" but also urged Americans and financial investors not to overreact.
The CDC announcement signals a change in tone for the U.S. health agency, which had largely been focused on efforts to stop the virus from entering the country and quarantining individuals traveling from China.
"The data over the past week about the spread in other countries has raised our level of concern and expectation that we are going to have community spread here," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call.
What is not known, she said, is when it will arrive and how severe a U.S. outbreak might be. "Disruption to everyday life might be severe,” she cautioned.
Businesses, schools and families should begin having discussions about the possibility that their lives may be disrupted if the virus begins spreading within U.S. communities.
Separately, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told a Senate subcommittee there will likely be more cases in the United States, and he asked lawmakers to approve $2.5 billion in funding to fight the outbreak after proposing cuts to the department's budget.
"While the immediate risk to individual members of the American public remains low, there is now community transmission in a number of countries, including outside of Asia, which is deeply concerning," Azar said, adding that recent outbreaks in Iran and Italy were particularly worrying.
Believed to have originated from illegal wildlife sold in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, the new coronavirus has infected some 80,000 people and killed 2,663 in China.
Although the World Health Organization says the epidemic has peaked in China, coronavirus cases have surfaced in about 30 other countries and territories, with some three dozen deaths reported, according to a Reuters tally.
Growing outbreaks in Iran, Italy and South Korea have raised concerns that coronavirus could surface in other nations and worsen in those that have already reported infections, further denting the global economy that had already been hit by a dependence on China.
Major U.S. stock indexes fell again on Tuesday after a sharp selloff on Monday.
Azar said the U.S. government was working closely with state, local, and private sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus’ potential spread in the United States.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, however, said President Donald Trump and his administration had been caught "flat-footed" and lacked a comprehensive plan to deal with coronavirus. He called for at least $3.1 billion in additional funding to fight it.
"The Trump administration has shown towering and dangerous incompetence when it comes to the coronavirus," said Schumer, the top Senate Democrat. "Mr. President, you need to get your act together now. This is a crisis."
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