|Trump Says Coronavirus Response is Working, Taps Pence to Lead Fight
–The Washington Times
“President Trump told Americans not to panic over the coronavirus Wednesday, saying he’s taken the reins, U.S. patients are recovering, and his decision to defy critics and restrict travel from China is working,” Tom Howell Jr. reports. “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low,” the President said.
The president also announced he is tasking Vice President Mike Pence with leading America’s fight against the new pathogen.
Mr. Trump adopted a rosier tone than his own officials, who one day prior said the virus that’s sickened thousands elsewhere is all but guaranteed to spread in U.S. communities, so Americans should get ready.
Flanked by his government disease-fighters, the president said he doesn’t think flare-ups are inevitable.“Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared,” he said. “It may get a little bigger, it may not get bigger at all.”
Even as he spoke, however, the CDC announced it had discovered a case in California that isn’t linked to travel or a person known to be sick. The person might have been exposed to a returning traveler, though the case is sure to raise new fears of community spread in the U.S.
The U.S. is monitoring 60 cases of the virus overall, though 45 of them were “imported” by repatriating Americans from China and a cruise ship in Japan. “The level that we’ve had in our country is very low and those people are getting better,” Mr. Trump said, referring to cases discovered in the country.
Mr. Trump, who faces reelection in November, is trying to confront the risk decisively and defuse Wall Street panic or criticism from the media and his 2020 rivals. The president rarely uses the White House briefing room but gathered with his coronavirus task force and Mr. Pence.
The president said he is tapping Mr. Pence to lead the response alongside Health Secretary Alex Azar, who will continue to lead the White House’s coronavirus task force. Mr. Azar said it wasn’t a snub because Mr. Pence offers him more clout in Washington.
Mr. Trump also said he’s ready to accept more than the $2.5 billion he’s requested from Congress to fight the outbreak. “If they want to give more, we’ll do more,” he said in a crowded White House briefing room.
Mr. Trump repeatedly took credit for barring foreign nationals who’ve been to China of late and imposing a quarantine on returning citizens, saying he doesn’t plan to lift the restrictions until the outlook improves. He isn’t putting restrictions on Italy, South Korea and other countries that are seeing a massive surge in cases, though he reserved the right to do so later. “It’s not the right time to do that,” Mr. Trump said.
The new virus was discovered in Hubei Province, China, in December. It causes an illness known as COVID-19 that can lead to respiratory distress and organ failure.
China has reported over 78,000 cases, including 2,718 deaths, to the World Health Organization. New cases in China are dwindling. “If you can count on the reports coming out of China, that spread has gone down quite a bit,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s actually gotten smaller.”
Still, jitters over the virus caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to forfeit early gains Wednesday and lose 123.77 points, or nearly 0.5%, at closing despite being up over 460 points, or 1.7%, earlier in the day. The S&P500 also squandered its gains while the NASDAQ held on, closing 15 points up.
The markets have suffered major routs this week amid fears the disease known as COVID-19 will cause long-lasting damage to global supply chains.
Beyond China, cases in Italy passed the 400-mark and South Korea reported over 1,200. Each nation has reported a dozen deaths.
European nations are studying whether new cases in Germany, France and elsewhere are tied to the cluster of infections in northern Italy. Pope Francis still held an audience in Rome on Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lent season, although the faithful wore face masks to St. Peter’s Square.
Other worshippers found churches closed across Italy on the holy day, an astonishing development in the Catholic nation.
🎬 Vice President Pence: President’s message is clear: We’re ready.