President Donald Trump urged Americans not to hoard food on Sunday during a White House press conference that came just minutes after the Federal Reserve announced new steps to shield the U.S. economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
"You don't have to buy so much," Trump said. "Take it easy. Relax."
In brief remarks, Trump cautioned against panic buying and said that food supply chains remained intact. He noted that earlier in the day he had met with executives from consumer and grocery companies including Target, Campbell's and Costco.
"They have asked me to say, 'Could you buy a little bit less please.'" Trump said. "I thought I would never hear that from a retailer."
U.S. cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, have ballooned over the last two weeks from roughly 100 confirmed infections on March 1 to almost 3,300 on Sunday, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University.
The president declared a national emergency over the coronavirus on Friday, freeing up to $50 billion for states and U.S. territories to deploy to assist Americans affected by the outbreak.
That announcement buoyed markets, which have plummeted in recent weeks amid fears that the global economy is about to be thrust into recession as events are canceled and people stay at home. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average indices both entered bear market territory last week, ending 11-year bull runs.
Just ahead of the White House press conference, the Federal Reserve announced a series of steps to mitigate the economic harm the new virus is likely to wreak.
The central bank said it will cut its benchmark interest rate to near zero and launch a $700 billion quantitative easing program, with purchases beginning on Monday.
Trump, who has long pressed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to take aggressive action to stimulate the economy, expressed delight at the move.
"It makes me very happy and I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve," Trump said. "I think that people in the market should be very thrilled."
Dow futures plunged shortly after the president's remarks despite the central bank action, hitting the 5% "limit down" threshold implemented by the CME futures exchange to prevent panic selling.