'Some may even die, I don't know': Former Wells Fargo CEO wants people to go back to work and 'see what happens'

Lloyd Blankfein speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2016 at Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel on October 18, 2016 in Dana Point, California. (Joe Scarnici:Getty Images for Fortune)

The coronavirus crisis in the United States is only just beginning. But it's not too early for some Americans to flout social distancing and isolation guidelines and return to work, according to some executives.

Dick Kovacevich, the former CEO and chairman of Wells Fargo, told Bloomberg News that healthy workers under the age of 55 should return to work in April if the outbreak is controlled, saying that "some may even die" with his plan.

"We'll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don't know," said Kovacevich, a current executive at Cisco and Cargill. "Do you want to suffer more economically or take some risk that you'll get flu-like symptoms and a flu-like experience? Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You get to choose."

President Donald Trump said he wants to "reopen" the economy by April 12, even as deaths from COVID-19 continue to mount in the US, because he'd like to see "packed churches all over our country" for Easter.

"Wouldn't it be great to have all of the churches full? You know the churches aren't allowed, essentially, to have much of a congregation there," Trump said Tuesday. "You'll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time."

Kovacevich isn't the only former bank executive pushing for economic activity despite the risk of increased infections and death. Lloyd Blankfein, the former head of Goldman Sachs "on a gap year" according to his Twitter bio, called on Sunday for "those with a lower risk to the disease to return to work."

"Crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue-and beyond," he wrote on Twitter. "Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work."

A server at an Olive Garden restaurant, 63-year-old Jim Conway, had no interest in heeding the multi-billionaire's advice. Conway, who was laid off from his Pennsylvania location two weeks ago, is "in no hurry to go back in the middle of an epidemic," he told Bloomberg News. "Being a server means you're in contact with lots of different people, and puts you at bigger risk of getting infected. I'm kind of glad they closed when they did."

"They've never really had our interests at heart," added Conway, who is waiting on unemployment benefits from the federal government. "And now would be a weird time to start."

Dallas Mavericks owner and venture capitalist Mark Cuban disagreed with Kovacevich and Blankfein, saying their advice should be disregarded.

"Ignore anything someone like me might say," he wrote in an email to Bloomberg News. "Lives are at stake."

Get the latest coronavirus analysis and research from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting businesses.


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