The White House is urging businesses to open their doors again in hopes of triggering a swift revival of the U.S. economy, despite warning signs that nationwide reopenings may be premature.

Kevin Hassett, an economic adviser to President Donald Trump, said Monday the White House has data showing that essential businesses over the past four weeks have begun to operate without major coronavirus flare-ups. He said it is likely safe for non-essential businesses to reopen as well.

“It looks like people have figured out how to get back to work and to do so safely,” Hassett said during an interview with CNBC. “We’ll figure out what practices we need to engage in in order to operate safely.”

However, the White House declined to provide the data that Hassett cited. And over the past two weeks, outbreaks have been reported at meatpacking plants, distribution centers and warehouses across the country that have remained open.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro nonetheless echoed Hassett’s claims during a CNN interview, saying the performance of aerospace companies and other “essential industries” shows the nation is ready to return to work -- albeit with social distancing and personal hygiene guidelines.

“We’re all going to take safe measures as we go forward,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters. “We can still go back to work and do so in a safe way -- have social distance, wash our hands and put in place the measures” outlined by coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx.

Skeptical Public
Hassett described the White House data as comparisons between areas with many “essential” businesses and those with fewer such workplaces. He said at the beginning of the U.S. outbreak, the virus spread faster in the former areas than the latter, but that the variance has declined over time. He concluded that essential businesses “have figured out how to get back to work and to do so safely.”

Convincing business owners it is safe to reopen and customers to return to stores is a significant challenge for Trump, who faces a public that remains skeptical despite the deep economic damage caused by the virus that has infected more than 968,000 Americans.

The president and U.S. retailers are expected to announce wider availability of coronavirus tests during a meeting at the White House on Monday, people familiar with the matter said. Business leaders have told Trump that the U.S. must have far more robust testing for the virus before the nation can begin trying to resume something resembling normal social and professional life.

Seven in ten Americans said the nation’s top priority should be slowing the spread of the virus “by keeping people home and social distancing, even if the economy is hurt in the short-term,” according to a poll released last week by CBS News and YouGov. Just 30% said the priority should be getting people back to work, “even if it means more people might be exposed to coronavirus.”

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