Sen. Ted Cruz warned in an interview on Friday that the U.S. will “see human lives lost” if the economic lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak lasts for months instead of weeks. “We are going to see real devastation from poverty to dreams shattered to family businesses put out of business,” the Texas Republican told Yahoo Finance.
Still, Cruz has pointed out in recent interviews that the ability to open is tied to a state’s capacity to contain the coronavirus. “No one in their right mind would suggest that New Yorkers should go back to work tomorrow,” Cruz said, referring to the nation’s epicenter of the crisis, where more than 12,000 people have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
But, Cruz added, “There are parts of the country where the numbers are not nearly as bad.”
The states should implement plans to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19 — the elderly and people with serious health conditions, Cruz said.
But Cruz says as much should be done as possible to “allow young healthy people to go back to work and to do so in ways that are safe, maybe using PPE [personal protective equipment], using masks and gloves and maybe using social distancing.” Cruz says the decision to reopen should be made at the local level. “It’s got to vary based on the circumstances on the ground,” he said.
Safely kick-starting the US economy
Stocks rose Friday after President Donald Trump outlined a three phase approach to reopen the economy while acknowledging the ultimate decision lies with each state’s governors. But the president went on a Twitter attack against Democratic governors in states like Virginia, Minnesota, and Michigan where Trump supporters have staged protests demanding governors reopen and rescind orders to stay at home.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
“Our objective needs to protect the most lives possible,” Cruz said on Friday. He has proposed priorities for states to consider reopening such as stocking protective gear for medical staff and confirming adequate hospital capacity. The most important priority, Cruz says, is wide-spread testing — although it will take months to produce the millions of tests needed for the U.S.
Indeed, Trump tweeted Friday that the states “have to step up their testing.” But governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo have criticized the Trump administration for failing to rapidly scale up testing in the U.S. as other countries like South Korea did when COVID-19 first became a threat.
Large-scale testing is a massive undertaking.
We need the private sector to work with government to meet this enormous challenge.
And we need the federal government to act.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 17, 2020
Still, Vice President Mike Pence has been talking to Abbott Laboratories (ABT) about producing its rapid response test approved by the FDA last month, Cruz pointed out. The Texas senator says the desperately needed tests are necessary to let people start working again.
“And one of the things the vice president said this morning in the call is that they are expecting that by the end of the month, that we will be producing 20 million antibody tests a month,” Cruz said.
Cruz didn’t say if the federal government or individual states would have to pay for the tests, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently told NBC News her state would need assistance from the federal government to create robust testing. Cruz suggested that it could be complicated to produce the necessary level of testing, though.
“There is not a magic wand that that you can suddenly have hundreds of millions or billions of tests poof into existence,” Cruz said. It’s one of the reasons he has urged the administration to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies like Abbott to produce the tests.
“That being said it is not the case that you’ve got to have 300 million tests for 300 million Americans,” Cruz said. “We have people working now in all sorts of essential industries.” Cruz said states and businesses can be prudent about letting people get back to work until a sufficient number of tests are produced.
Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s On the Move.