President Donald Trump's commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo on Thursday that the outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus "will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America."
After prefacing his remarks by saying that "every American's heart has to go out to the victims of the coronavirus" and qualifying that he doesn't want to take "a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease," Ross argued that the outbreak in China "does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain."
He added, "On top of all the other things, because you had SARS, you have the African swine virus there. Now you have this. It's another risk factor that people need to take into account. So I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America — some to U.S., probably some to Mexico as well."
The coronavirus has taken a toll on the American stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average taking a 500 points dip on January 28 after news broke of the virus arriving in the United States.
As of Wednesday there were five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sixty-eight potential cases in the United States were studied and came back negative, while 92 others are still under investigation.
After one student was confirmed to have the disease at Arizona State University, students created a petition urging the college to cancel classes so they would not get sick. Two other cases were confirmed in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California.
The coronavirus has killed 170 people in mainland China as of Wednesday, according to the BBC. After a case was confirmed in Tibet, the coronavirus had officially reached every province in mainland China, with 7,711 confirmed cases in the country overall. Infections have also spread to 15 other countries including the United States, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, France, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
"Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak," World Health-Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
It is believed that the virus originated at a wholesale seafood market in Wuhan, China, which would indicate that it is zoonotic, or capable of being transferred from animals to humans. China has confirmed that the virus can be spread from human to human, although the CDC noted that it is not yet clear how contagious the virus actually is in person-to-person transmission.
The virus' symptoms, which become apparent two to five days after initial infection, include coughing, feverishness, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. If the coronavirus migrates from the upper respiratory tract to the lower respiratory tract, it can be fatal.
Watch Wilbur Ross's comments via Twitter here.