WHITE HOUSE – With stock prices plunging amid an oil price war and the coronavirus crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump is to meet Monday afternoon with his economic advisors, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who will present him with policy options to counter the quickly emerging threats to the economy.
White House sources say the options will include paid sick leave and emergency help for small businesses.
The meeting is set to be convened after Trump returns from Florida, where he attended a fundraising luncheon at the home of a wealthy donor.
Wall Street executives are scheduled to be at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the market situation and its impact on the U.S. economy, VOA News has learned.
As the Dow Jones Industrial Average dived more than 2,000 points during Monday morning trading, Trump, via Twitter, blamed the market drop on Saudi Arabia and Russia arguing over the price and flow of oil.
“That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop,” he wrote.
Trump said the big decline for oil prices will be good for the consumer as gasoline will cost less.
Trump also downplayed Americans’ fears about the novel coronavirus.
The president said the number of deaths in the United States from the new disease is a tiny fraction compared to the tens of thousands who succumb annually to seasonal influenza.
“Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” tweeted Trump.
The number of confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus, which originated in China, is 566, including 22 deaths, according to state public health authorities and the Johns Hopkins University.
Left unsaid in Trump’s messaging was that people can be immunized against the flu strains while there is no vaccine yet to protect against COVID-19 which health experts predict will have a higher mortality rate than influenza.
“The markets have obviously been very active today,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar of the historic sell-off on Wall Street.
“President Trump has delivered a historically strong economy” and the economic fundamentals remain strong, stated Azar, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force. “The public health and protecting the American people is the No. 1 priority for all of us,” added Azar.
Briefly speaking on the White House North Lawn driveway, the Cabinet official declined to answer any questions from a group of reporters who had been waiting while he conducted interviews on Fox News and Fox Business channels, friendly media outlets for the Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence and others on the task force are scheduled to speak to reporters at a briefing later in the day.
The White House is denying reports that it has issued formal guidelines to staff instructing them to limit in-person interactions and meetings.
“While we have asked all Americans to exercise common-sense hygiene measures, we are conducting business as usual. I want to remind the media once again to be responsible with all reporting,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.