President Donald Trump praised his administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis Wednesday before announcing on Twitter that he would hold a press conference to address the nation on the issue at 6 p.m. ET.
The president, in an earlier tweet, said he had meetings and calls, as well as a briefing, scheduled during the day to deal with the issue.
Trump’s comments came a day after one of the top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that health experts expect the coronavirus to spread in the United States.
The CDC on Tuesday warned the American public to prepare for an an outbreak of the disease, which has spawned more than 80,000 cases around the world but relatively few so far in the U.S.
But before he flew home from India on Tuesday, Trump said the coronavirus situation is “very well under control in our country.”
Arriving back in the U.S. early Wednesday, Trump immediately began to push back against critics who say he should have acted sooner to bolster the federal response to the coronavirus.
Trump ridiculed the criticism in a another tweet, stating that no matter what his administration does, the Democrats' "talking point is that we are doing badly. If the virus disappeared tomorrow, they would say we did a really poor, and even incompetent, job.”
Several Democrat presidential candidates condemned the administration's handling of the crisis during a primary debate in South Carolina Tuesday night, The Hill reported.
In addition, congressmen from both parties have called the adminstration’s request for $2.5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the virus inadequate, with Democrats vowing to draft a larger funding demand.
Trump tweeted that the CDC, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar “and all doing a great job with respect to Coronavirus!”
Azar was scheduled Wednesday to testify to Congress about appropriations for his department, with questioning about the administration's coronavirus preparations likely.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also engaged in the pushback after returning with Trump. Grisham retweeted a CDC post that said “there is currently no reported community spread” of coronavirus in the U.S.
In the tweet, the CDC advised people to take the usual precautions to avoid spreading the virus, such as staying home when sick and washing hands with soap and water.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health's infectious disease chief, told CNN on Wednesday that the first clinical trials for a possible coronavirus vaccine could begin in one to two months. He said a vaccine is a year to a year-and-a-half away.
He said that while only a few cases have turned up in the U.S. from travelers outside the country, “we need to be able to think about how we will respond to a pandemic outbreak.”
"It's very clear. If we have a global pandemic, no country is going to be without impact, Fauci said.
A pandemic involves the continual spread of sustained transmission from person to person in multiple regions and hemispheres throughout the world simultaneously, Fauci noted.
As for a possible vaccine, Fauci said the U.S. is one to two months from way from a Phase One trial to determine safety.
“But that doesn't mean you have a vaccine,” Fauci cautioned. “In order to get a vaccine that's practically deployable for people to use...it's going to be a year to a year and a half at best.”
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