President Trump says US 'very ready' for virus; Pence to lead response

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar turns to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during a news conference about coronavirus in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

He has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the nation's response, working with the government's top health authorities.

Posted: Feb 26, 2020 6:43 PM
Updated: Feb 26, 2020 7:49 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that a widespread U.S. outbreak of the new respiratory virus sweeping the globe isn't inevitable even as top health authorities at his side warned Americans that more infections are coming.

Trump sought to minimize fears as he insisted the U.S. is “very, very ready” for whatever the COVID-19 outbreak brings. Under fire about the government's response, he put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the efforts.

“This will end,” Trump said of the outbreak at a White House news conference. “You don't want to see panic because there's no reason to be panicked.”

But standing next to him, the very health officials Trump praised for fighting the new coronavirus stressed that schools, businesses and individuals need to get ready.

“We do expect more cases,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shortly after Trump spoke, the CDC announced a worrisome development: Another person in the U.S. is infected — someone in California who doesn't appear to have traveled abroad or been exposed to another patient. If the CDC confirms that, it would be a first in this country and a sign that efforts to contain the virus' spread haven't been enough.

“It's possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19," the CDC said in a statement.

More than 81,000 cases of COVID-19, an illness characterized by fever and coughing and in serious cases shortness of breath or pneumonia, have occurred since the new virus emerged in China.

The newest case from California brings the total number infected in the U.S. to 60, most of them evacuated from outbreak zones.

Trump credited border restrictions that have blocked people coming into the U.S. from China for keeping infections low so far. But now countries around the world — from South Korea and Japan to Italy and Iran — are experiencing growing numbers of cases. Asked if it was time to either lift the China restrictions, or take steps for travelers from elsewhere, he said: “At a right time we may do that. Right now it's not the time.”

Trump spent close to an hour discussing the virus threat, after a week of sharp stock market losses over the health crisis and concern within the administration that a growing outbreak could affect his reelection. He blamed the Democrats for the stock market slide, saying, "I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves." And at one point he shifted to defend his overall record and predict a win in November.

A key question is whether the Trump administration is spending enough money to get the country prepared — especially as the CDC has struggled to expand the number of states that can test people for the virus. Other key concerns are stockpiling masks and other protective equipment for health workers, and developing a vaccine or treatment.

Health officials have exhausted an initial $105 million in emergency funding and have been looking elsewhere for dollars. Earlier this week, Trump requested $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the virus. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York countered with a proposal for $8.5 billion.

Trump told reporters he was open to spending “whatever's appropriate.”

Trump compared the new virus repeatedly to the flu, which kills tens of thousands each year. The new coronavirus has killed more than 2,700 — most in China and none in the U.S. so far — but scientists still don't understand who's most at risk or what the actual death rate is.

Without a vaccine, CDC's Schuchat advised people to follow “tried and true, not very exciting" but important precautions: Wash your hands, cover your coughs and stay home when you're sick.

A day earlier, another CDC official, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, was even more blunt, telling Americans to get ready for some of the same steps as occurred during the 2009 flu pandemic, such as school closings. “It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness," she said.

The National Institutes of Health's top infectious disease chief cautioned a vaccine won't be ready for widespread use for a year or more. But Dr. Anthony Fauci said even if the virus wanes soon, it's “quite conceivable” that it might “come back and recycle next year.” By then, he said, “we hope to have a vaccine.”

“Instead of listening to public health and medical experts, the president has been downplaying the potential impact of the virus for over a month,” said Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson added that putting Pence, “someone with no public health expertise, in charge of the response will not instill confidence with the American people and raises questions about the administration's ability to coordinate an effective response to a complex public health threat.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 585677

Reported Deaths: 7309
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1214151720
Ramsey50647870
Dakota45309445
Anoka41050434
Washington26510280
Stearns22001221
St. Louis17598302
Scott17081124
Wright15800137
Olmsted1314197
Sherburne1149085
Carver1037345
Clay809992
Rice7978106
Blue Earth742641
Crow Wing655888
Kandiyohi649182
Chisago585851
Otter Tail570178
Benton562397
Goodhue473572
Mower462532
Douglas461874
Winona451250
Itasca424353
McLeod419158
Morrison415460
Isanti412563
Nobles407048
Beltrami389458
Steele382715
Polk381068
Becker376950
Lyon358750
Carlton341453
Freeborn340229
Pine325121
Nicollet321743
Brown303840
Mille Lacs298952
Le Sueur287022
Todd279132
Cass266928
Meeker252040
Waseca236022
Martin229131
Roseau206719
Wabasha20423
Hubbard185341
Dodge18253
Renville178443
Redwood171736
Houston170515
Cottonwood163221
Fillmore154710
Wadena153821
Pennington153419
Chippewa151538
Faribault150419
Kanabec142924
Sibley142010
Aitkin133436
Watonwan13139
Rock127719
Jackson121511
Pipestone114526
Yellow Medicine113820
Pope10876
Murray10609
Swift104518
Stevens89511
Marshall87617
Clearwater85916
Koochiching81615
Lake80619
Wilkin80312
Lac qui Parle75022
Big Stone5954
Lincoln5763
Grant5668
Mahnomen5418
Norman5379
Unassigned48993
Kittson48322
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3193
Cook1560

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 365306

Reported Deaths: 5923
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57333622
Linn20748334
Scott19856240
Black Hawk15765308
Woodbury15097228
Johnson1442583
Dubuque13333209
Dallas1112998
Pottawattamie11060168
Story1056248
Warren574288
Clinton552492
Cerro Gordo536989
Sioux512974
Webster511193
Marshall481375
Muscatine475399
Des Moines452366
Wapello4286122
Buena Vista424040
Jasper417271
Plymouth400380
Lee373855
Marion360775
Jones297257
Henry290837
Carroll285052
Bremer283260
Crawford265940
Boone263234
Benton255455
Washington253550
Dickinson247643
Mahaska229451
Jackson220942
Kossuth215164
Clay214925
Tama209071
Delaware208240
Winneshiek196833
Page192522
Buchanan190531
Cedar188923
Hardin184843
Fayette184741
Wright183936
Hamilton179249
Harrison179173
Clayton169256
Butler164334
Mills161422
Madison160819
Floyd160042
Cherokee158438
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154733
Allamakee150551
Iowa148224
Hancock146934
Winnebago141231
Cass137854
Calhoun136913
Grundy136133
Emmet133940
Jefferson132235
Shelby130537
Sac130019
Appanoose128048
Union128033
Louisa127849
Mitchell125742
Chickasaw123815
Guthrie120829
Humboldt118826
Franklin117721
Palo Alto112323
Howard104222
Montgomery102838
Clarke99824
Unassigned9760
Keokuk95531
Monroe95129
Ida90234
Adair86232
Pocahontas85222
Monona82830
Davis82324
Osceola77916
Greene77610
Lucas77123
Worth7388
Taylor65712
Fremont6229
Decatur6069
Van Buren55718
Ringgold55524
Wayne53423
Audubon50710
Adams3384
Rochester
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 40°
Mason City
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 32°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 34°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 36°
Charles City
Mostly Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: °
Rain is moving in this afternoon
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events