July 9, 2020 / 11:35 PM / a month ago

U.S. energy secretary postpones visit to oil reserve due to suspected coronavirus case

WASHINGTON, July 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. energy secretary has postponed a visit to the country’s emergency oil reserve after the spouse of an employee at the facility’s site in Texas exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus, a Department of Energy official said on Thursday.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had planned to visit the Big Hill Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR, site in Texas on Friday.

“Though this case is unconfirmed, out of an abundance of caution this employee is quarantining, and we will be postponing Secretary Brouillette’s visit,” the department official said.

Texas, the second most populous U.S. state, suffered a record increase in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, as did California, the most populous state, dimming hopes of a quick U.S. economic revival.

President Donald Trump has tried to support oil companies suffering from reduced fuel demand due to the coronavirus by ordering Brouillette to purchase 77 million barrels of oil to stash in the SPR. But Congress did not approve funding for the purchase. The Department of Energy said last month it bought a mere 126,000 barrels of crude for the SPR. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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