Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman on Monday urged President Trump to shut down the U.S. for one month to slow the spread of the coronavirus, vowing that the economy would come “roaring back” from the pandemic.
Ackman, who founded Pershing Square Capital Management, called on Trump to close the nation’s borders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“If they handle this virus correctly and they shut it down, the economy will come roaring back,” Ackman said during an interview with FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “But we have to give the business community and the investment community the confidence that there’s an end date. And the way you kill a virus is you deprive it of its hosts. You do that by a coordinated, 30-day shutdown.”
While it’s still unclear how sharp a downturn there would be in the U.S., social distancing, which has led to school cancellations, mandatory work-from-home policies, grounded airplanes, anchored cruise ships and the abrupt closing of shops, restaurants and bars throughout the country, is almost guaranteed to cause a huge slump in consumer spending, which powers about two-thirds of the country’s GDP, indicating it could cause deep economic pain.
There are at least 32,241 confirmed cases in the U.S., the third-highest in the world, according to a database published by Johns Hopkins University. So far, 473 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19.
Countries around the world are locking down their borders and urging citizens to stay home to slow the spread of the virus -- an approach that Ackman said he supports.
“You [need to] shock the virus,” Ackman said. “You kill it in 30 days. It’s a bit like bombing your house with something to destroy bed bugs. And you wait till the bed bugs die, and then you can move back in.”
Earlier in the day, Ackman feuded with former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein about the best way for the government to respond to the virus, which some economists fear could cause a recession that would rival the 2008 financial crisis in terms of severity.
Although Blankfein agreed that “extreme measures” to flatten the so-called virus curve were sensible “for a time,” he said “crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue and beyond.”
“Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work,” he said.
But Ackman maintained that the best way to cushion the economy from potential fallout was with “a coordinated Federal-led shutdown for 30 days and then a gradual reopening with testing, testing, testing so we can kill the virus when it reappears.”