US states look at easing coronavirus lockdowns

But health experts fear increased human interaction could spark new wave of cases

TOPSHOT - A demonstrator shows a sign with "Make America safe again" written on it while driving past the Governor's Mansion during a drive by protest in Atlanta, Georgia on April 24, 2020. Gyms, hair salons and tattoo parlors had a green light to reopen in the US state of Georgia as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic soared past 50,000 in the United States. / AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA
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More US states are looking to lift coronavirus lockdown restrictions as the national unemployed rate hovers about 16 per cent.

White House officials on US political talk shows gave different views of how the economy would react to the pandemic.

Colorado, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee will begin to reopen their economies in the next few days.

Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina were the first wave of states easing restrictions.

Health experts say increased human interaction could spark a new wave of Covid-19 cases, the respiratory disease that has already killed about 55,000 Americans.

The lockdown restrictions resulted in 26.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits since mid-March.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Friday that the economy would contract at nearly a 40 per cent annual rate by June.

The CBO forecast that the jobless rate would average above 10 per cent into next year.

The pandemic would probably push the national unemployment rate to 16 per cent this month, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on Sunday.

In this Thursday, April 23, 2020 photo, Diego Ternero stacks and boxes finished face masks for shipping at the Georgia Expo in Suwanee, Ga. The company has pivoted from sewing curtains to sewing cloth faces masks. As business restrictions ease companies are preparing to open, but one key ingredient to safety is nearly impossible to find, personal protective equipment. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

"It's a really grave situation. This is the biggest negative shock that our economy, I think, has ever seen.

"We're going to be looking at an unemployment rate that approaches rates that we saw during the Great Depression.

"I think the next couple of months are going to look terrible. You're going to see numbers as bad as anything we've ever seen.

"We're going to need really big thoughtful policies to put together to make it so that people are optimistic again," Mr Hassett told the ABC.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin insisted that the US economy would come roaring back.

Mr Mnuchin defended soaring deficit spending as key to reviving the economy, despite the misgivings of Congressional Republicans.

Kirsten Cassat wears a face mask inside her tattoo parlor, as businesses reopen after a shutdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Savannah, Georgia, U.S., April 25, 2020.  REUTERS/Maranie Staab

He said the administration was considering loans to troubled energy companies but insisted there would be no shareholder bailouts.

"I think as we begin to reopen the economy in May and June you're going to see the economy really bounce back in July, August, September," Mr Mnuchin told Fox News.

"And we are putting in an unprecedented amount of fiscal relief into the economy. You're seeing trillions of dollars that are making their way into the economy and I think this is going to have a significant impact."