President Donald Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to head the Coronavirus task force charged with preparing for and preventing outbreaks in the United States Wednesday night.
The White House press briefing came hours after Trump returned from a diplomatic trip to India, and he described the current threat level of the disease as “low” in the U.S. His statement echoed that of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a Tuesday press briefing, where he described the virus as “contained,” but warned that more cases are expected as borders can’t be closed off entirely. Pence will replace Azar as head of the task force and report directly to the president.
Trump went on to cite a study from Johns Hopkins University that found the U.S. was the most well-prepared nation in the world when it comes to a flu-like outbreak such as Coronavirus. (RELATED: US Official Shuts Down Chinese Reporter Who Claimed China Had ‘Contained’ Coronavirus)
“It could be at a small level or a larger level,” Trump said of the potential U.S. outbreak. “Whatever happens we’re totally prepared. We have the best people in the world. You see that from the study. We have the best prepared people, the best people in the world. Congress is willing to give us much more than we’re even asking for. That’s nice for a change. But we are totally ready, willing and able. It’s a term we use. Ready, willing and able. It’s going to be very well-under control.”
Trump did acknowledge fears that the $2.5 billion in funding was inadequate. Some Republicans suggested $4.5 billion and Democrats have called for $8.5 billion, Trump said. He asserted that $2.5 billion was enough but that it was ultimately up to Congress to decide how much funding to devote to the disease. (RELATED: CDC Recommends Men Shave Their Beards Over Coronavirus)
Azar warned that while the disease is currently contained here, outbreaks in other countries could still transfer to the U.S. He said Americans may face changes to their day-to-day life, such as when the government cancelled school briefly in 2009 for the Swine Flu epidemic.
Azar specified that Americans can find advice on staying healthy at CDC.gov/covid19.