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St. Louis Fed president suggests universal coronavirus testing to restart economy

President of the St. Louis Federal Reserve James Bullard and House Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have both suggested some form of widespread testing to reopen the U.S. economy after many businesses have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
President of the St. Louis Federal Reserve James Bullard and House Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have both suggested some form of widespread testing to reopen the U.S. economy after many businesses have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 5 (UPI) -- President of the St. Louis Federal Reserve James Bullard on Sunday suggested that the United States implement universal COVID-19 tests to allow employees to return to the workplace and reopen the U.S. economy.

Bullard, appearing on CBS' News Face the Nation, said the United States could use available technology to test "every single person" for the coronavirus every day and then provide them with a badge to indicate they've been tested and can return to the workforce.

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"This would immediately sort out who's been infected and who hasn't been infected. That would help the health care sector but it would also help the economy because we could interact with each other with a lot of confidence," he said.

House Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., suggested a similar solution involving blood testing Americans to see if they have contracted the virus in the past.

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"What we know from the past is there's a lot of people who don't show the symptoms. So one of the optimistic things that we have on the horizon here is the approval of the test where people could take blood tests, those people then could go back out there in the workforce," Nunes told Fox & Friends Weekend on Sunday.

Bullard's team has predicted that as many as 47 million Americans may lose their jobs due to the pandemic, bring the jobless rate in the country above 32 percent, but he pushed back against the idea that the market is in "free fall."

"We're asking people to stay home to invest in national health and we're asking them to use the unemployment insurance program in order to get the transfers they need to be able to pay bills while they're at home, while they're not able to work because health authorities are trying to get the virus under control," he said.

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President Donald Trump has also mentioned the possibility of a fourth coronavirus relief package following the $2.2 trillion measure that was signed late last month and is set to begin providing Americans with checks for as much as $1,200 as well as loans for small businesses to retain employees.

Bullard on Sunday said he believes the most recent stimulus bill was "well-sized for the situation" adding that he believes much of the economic impact of the virus will be felt during the second quarter of the fiscal year.

"This shutdown means that we're trying to only produce essential services and the goods and services that can be produced by workers working from home. Surely, that's less than 50 percent of the total economy. So income is going to be down 50 percent," he said. "If you said that's two-and-a-half trillion, that sounds like about the number that Congress came up with here. So in that sense, I think you've got the right amount of resources."

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Trump has also suggested launching a task force in addition to the White House Coronavirus Task Force that would be dedicated to starting the economy up again after many businesses have been closed and workers have lost jobs due to the outbreak.

"We've never actually unplugged an entire economy and don't forget it's almost an entire global economy so clearly things have to happen," said Nunes.

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