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Here’s what Trump said in his big coronavirus press conference

President Trump and Members of the coronavirus task force hold a news conference at the White House on Feb. 26, 2020. (White House/Released)
February 26, 2020

Trump spoke to reporters about the global coronavirus epidemic at a press conference Wednesday evening where he declared that America is at low risk of an outbreak.

“The risk to the American people remains very low. We have the greatest experts in the world right here,” Trump said. “We’re ready to adapt. We’re ready to do whatever we have to if the disease spreads.”

U.S. coronavirus cases

“The level that we’ve had in our country is very low,” Trump said, adding that nearly all of the 15 Americans who were diagnosed in the country are recovering from the virus.

Eight of the 15 affected people have returned to their homes. One remains in the hospital in serious condition. Six other people are still being treated.

U.S. coronavirus response

Trump spoke about the U.S. strategy to confront the virus so far, including screening of those coming into the U.S. from affected areas, quarantines for those at risk, and rapid test kit and vaccine development.

Department of Human Health and Services Secretary Alex M. Azar said, “The president’s early and decisive actions have succeeded in buying us valuable time” in planning and combatting the spread of the virus in the U.S.

$2.5 billion funding request

The Trump administration made an emergency $2.5 billion request to Congress this week for funds that will be used to prepare hospitals for a significant coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., as well as escalating vaccine development.

“Some Republicans would like us to get 4 [million] and some Democrats would like us to get eight-and-a-half [million],” Trump said.

Azar explained the funding will address five major priorities: expanding surveillance network, support for state and local governments’ work, development of therapeutics and vaccines, and purchase of personal protective equipment.”

Pence to lead coronavirus effort

Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the federal coronavirus response effort.

“I’m going to be putting our Vice President Mike Pence in charge, and Mike will be working with the professionals, doctors and everybody else that’s working,” Trump said, adding that Pence will be reporting to him.

“We have no higher priority than the safety, security, health and wellbeing of the American people,” Pence said.

Comparison to the flu

Trump emphasized the “low risk” of coronavirus in the U.S. by comparing it to the flu.

“The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year,” Trump said, pointing out that only 15 people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. so far, while the remainder were from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, and other repatriated from China.

Health experts say more cases expected

“The immediate risk to the American public is and continues to be low,” Azar said, adding that “our containment strategy has been working.”

“At the same time, what every one of our experts and leaders have been saying for more than a month now remains true. The degree of risk has the potential to chance quickly, and we can expect to see more cases in the United States,” Azar said.

The CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat also confirmed that the U.S. strategy to deter the virus is working, though reiterated that more cases are expected.

“Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and it is responsible for the low level of cases that we have so far. However, we do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare,” Schuchat said.

Vaccine more than a year away

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that although the U.S.’s coronavirus vaccine development is one of the most rapid vaccine development processes, the various development and trials to be undertaken will still take at least one year.

The update comes a day after the CDC sparked panic among the American public by declaring that a coronavirus outbreak in America is inevitable.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Dr. Nancy Messonnier said. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country.”

“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Messonnier added.

There are now 53 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States. Of those cases, 36 involved individuals who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, and another three were repatriated from China. Nineteen cases were originally confirmed in the U.S.

More than 80,000 people have been infected with coronavirus worldwide, and more than 2,600 people have died.