President Donald Trump told Americans on Wednesday that the risk from coronavirus remained “very low,” and placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the U.S. response to the looming global health crisis, Reuters writes.
At a White House briefing, Trump defended his administration’s handling of the crisis and said health experts were “ready, willing and able” to move quickly if the virus spreads.
Trump made his comments as public health officials warned Americans to prepare for more coronavirus cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an infection of the new coronavirus in California in someone who had not traveled outside the United States or been exposed to a person known to have the virus, a first for the country.
How the person was infected was not known. It brought the total number of cases in the United States to 15, according to the CDC.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the government to help the city obtain 300,000 extra protective masks. There were no confirmed cases in the city but de Blasio announced plans to provide up to 1,200 hospital beds if needed.
U.S. stock markets fell for the fifth consecutive day on investors’ alarm about the respiratory disease spreading, Reuters added.
At the White House, Trump said he was not ready to institute new travel restrictions for countries such as South Korea and Italy that are dealing with outbreaks – although he could not rule it out. The State Department raised its travel alert level for South Korea and urged Americans to reconsider going there.
The CDC has advised Americans to not visit China and South Korea, and on Wednesday stepped up travel warnings for Iran, Italy and Mongolia.
“The risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump said, flanked by Pence and public health officials.
He said the spread of the virus in the United States was not “inevitable” and then went on to say: “It probably will, it possibly will. It could be at a very small level, or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens we’re totally prepared.”