President Donald Trump and federal health officials plan to brief the public Wednesday evening on efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, even as the White House continues to want global markets and the American public to believe that the disease poses little risk to the U.S.
“I will be having a News Conference at the White House, on this subject, today at 6:00 P.M.,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, adding that he’d be joined by representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC warned Tuesday that the virus’s spread in America is inevitable and could bring significant disruption to the world’s largest economy — a message that runs counter to the one that has been coming from Trump in recent days.
So far, the markets have sided with the CDC’s experts. U.S. stocks hit a 12-week low following the CDC warning, with losses on the S&P 500 totaling 7.6% over four days.
“The American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus and I’m not getting them from you,” Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana told acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf at a hearing on Tuesday.
At the Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday night, candidates accused Trump of making the country more vulnerable by failing to take action.
The mixed messages from top U.S. officials illustrated the balance that Trump and his advisers are trying to strike: Demonstrating that they have control over the situation while avoiding any move that spurs a panic and subsequent stock market sell-off as the re-election campaign heats up.
Trump returned to Washington early Wednesday morning from his trip to India and indicated he would turn his attention to the potential of an outbreak in the U.S.
“Heading to the White House,” Trump tweeted. “Meetings and calls scheduled today. @CDCgov, @SecAzar and all doing a great job with respect to Coronavirus! Briefing this afternoon.”
Trump returns to growing questions about the administration’s handling of coronavirus. His Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, will face a second day of scrutiny over the government’s response during House hearings Wednesday on his agency’s budget.
Earlier Tuesday, as he concluded a two-day trip to India, Trump told reporters that the disease was “well under control” in the U.S. His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, declared at the White House later in the day that “we have contained this virus.”
But they were contradicted by public health professionals at the CDC. “We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
“It is not a matter of if, but a question of when, this will exactly happen,” she said.
The benchmark S&P 500 index extended its losses for a fourth straight day, the longest such streak since Aug. 5, falling more than 3% on Tuesday. Compounding investors’ worries about the U.S. government’s preparedness, the World Health Organization reported on Tuesday that the number of global infections exceeded 80,000, up 900 in a day, and that cases were reported in four additional countries — Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Oman.
There have only been 60 Americans infected so far, according to the CDC, and none have died. Nevertheless, there is deep concern on Capitol Hill that the government is unprepared for a domestic outbreak. Some lawmakers have pushed Trump for a more aggressive response, including broader restrictions on travel from countries with outbreaks, but there are worries within the White House about the impact on the economy — and by extension, the president’s re-election campaign.
A test for the virus developed in part by the CDC and shared with states has produced inconclusive results, limiting the ability of local health departments to detect the disease and raise alarm if it’s silently spreading through U.S. communities. That’s crucially important, given that mild cases can resemble the flu.
“I am frustrated that we have had issues with the test,” Messonnier said. The agency is working on a modified test kit it hopes to send out to state and local health departments as soon as possible. Twelve states and localities are now able to perform testing on their own, she said.
Through Feb. 23, the CDC conducted 2,620 coronavirus tests on 1,007 patients. While it has no backlog, completing the test involves sending a sample back to the agency, potentially delaying results.
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In This Story: Donald Trump
This story features US President Donald Trump. Donald John Trump is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality. See more Donald Trump news here.