Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis CEO: People Should Get Tested Daily, Wear a Badge

Melanie Arter | April 6, 2020 | 3:46pm EDT
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(Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Before people return to work, they should be tested daily and wear a badge to show they’ve been tested, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis CEO James Bullard suggested on Sunday.

During an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” host Margaret Brennan asked whether Bullard thinks the global economy will look the same on the other side of the pandemic and whether those jobs will actually exist for people to go back to.

“You know I have good news for you, Margaret, because we have a-- there is a solution using available technology today to fix the economic part of this problem. The solution is universal testing. What you want is every single person to get tested every day, and then they would wear a badge like they would after they voted or something like that to show that they've been tested,” Bullard said.

“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.

Bullard predicted that the unemployment rate could climb to somewhere between 10 and 42 percent, and he disputed the notion that the economy is in a free fall.

“Yeah, I would push back against the idea of the economy or the job market being 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.

“Our estimates, which are available at our blog, St. Louis Fed on the economy blog, suggests the unemployment rate could go anywhere between 10 percent and 42 percent. The 32 percent-number is a compromise in the middle,” Bullard said.

“I mean there's this idea when I speak to business leaders, in particular, that some of those jobs are going to come back, that these are temporary furloughs, that they will be somehow just a switch that flips on and the economy will come back roaring. Isn't that a little bit of a projection of a perfect scenario here?” Brennan asked.

“Well, I think it can be done. Whether it will be done depends on execution. I thought Congress did a great thing in passing their bill. I thought it was appropriately sized for this situation. The object is to keep everybody whole during the period when you're asking people to not go to their jobs and not go to the shops and, basically, not participate in the economy,” Bullard said.

“So in some ways, the uptake on the unemployment insurance program is a good thing because it means you're getting the transfers to the people that are being disrupted by this health-ordered shutdown,” he said.

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