President Donald Trump has courted significant controversy since announcing he will look into loosening federal guidelines for social distancing and urge businesses to reopen even as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Trump said during a briefing at the White House. “America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
Health experts have advised against it, saying that relaxing social distancing could increase the death toll from the virus, which has claimed at least 582 lives in the United States.
But even big business appears to side with the experts, and several prominent investors and financiers warn that the economy could take even harsher blows should Trump go ahead with his plan.
“You may get a [market] bounce on the headline,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial Inc., told The Washington Post‘s Tory Newmyer. “Or the market could down even more if the community of investors and traders believe this is the opposite of what is needed. Above all else it will be the empirical data that suggests the virus is receding.”
Adam Sarhan, CEO of investment firm 50 Park Investments, concurred.
“What the world, and the market, needs to see is that number stop going up,” he said. “Think of it as a trade: What’s the risk of reopening early?” Sarhan said. “The risk is the number of cases continues to skyrocket, and longer term, you’re just digging a much deeper hole.”
Last week, Bill Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square Capital, made headlines after he demanded the president order a 30-day nationwide shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Ackman warned that postponing a shutdown would cost possibly “millions of lives” while decimating the economy.
“With your leadership, we can end this now. The rest of the world will follow your lead,” he concluded.
Ackman reiterated his call as recently as yesterday, arguing that the virus is “largely obliterated” with “a coordinated national shutdown for all but essential services.”
The virus can’t survive without a host. With a coordinated national shutdown for all but essential services, manufacturing, retail, etc for 30 days, the virus is largely obliterated. When the economy reopens, we test widely so that we can quarantine outbreaks when they reappear.
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) March 23, 2020