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CEOs raise concerns, urge caution as Trump looks to reopen economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump consulted with dozens of high-profile CEOs, union officials and other executives Wednesday on how to get the nation’s economy moving again and received a mixed message from the industry leaders: They, too, want to get the economy going but they have worries about whether there are enough coronavirus tests available to ensure workers can safely return to the job.

In a tweet midway through Trump’s round of four conference calls with the executives, the president said the participants were “all-in on getting America back to work, and soon.”

But participants in a morning call that included the heads of CIGNA insurance, Jimmy John’s fast food chain and dozens of other leading American companies raised concerns about the testing issue, according to one participant who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private discussion.

Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was among several representatives from major sports leagues to speak with Trump. He credited the president during a Fox News interview with gathering some of the “best of the best” to help shape his approach on reopening the economy. Still, Cuban did not embrace Trump’s push to reopen parts of the economy May 1.

“This is such a moving target that I think the biggest mistake we can make is rush to a decision,” said Cuban, who previously had been critical of Trump’s response to the pandemic. “But I’m going to help him in every way I can, whatever he needs me to do.”

The president’s calls with members of Trump’s new Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups come as Trump says he’s looking at relaxing some of the social distancing guidelines his administration put in place last month to help stem the disease.

Trump said he would consult with them on the best way to resume economic activity while protecting public health.

But the panel also could help give Trump a measure of cover. If cases surge once restrictions are lifted, as many experts have warned, Trump will be able to tell the public he didn’t act alone and the nation’s top minds — from manufacturing to defense to technology — helped shape the plan.

A participant in one of the afternoon calls, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said leaders “made a point of saying that, yes, we need to get the country back to work, but we need to do it safely.”

The launch of the council was not without hiccups.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka didn’t know until he heard his name announced in the Rose Garden on Tuesday that he would be part of the advisory group, according to Carolyn Bobb, a spokeswoman for the union.

“We were not asked,” Bobb said in an email. It was “just announced.”

Madhani reported from Chicago.