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VP Pence Made Chief of US Coronavirus Task Force

© REUTERS / CARLOS BARRIAU.S. President Donald Trump walks past Vice President Mike Pence during a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump walks past Vice President Mike Pence during a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2020.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria - Sputnik International
During a Wednesday presser before the American public, US President Donald Trump announced Washington will "spend whatever is appropriate" to combat the possible spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the country.

Trump revealed that the government will begin by moving a total of $2.5 billion in funding to various programs to fight the coronavirus, noting that Washington is "very, very ready" for an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

US Vice President Mike Pence explained that he has been appointed as the head of a task force overseeing various groups and will ensure they have the necessary resources for the government response. He also asserted that Trump took "unprecedented steps" against the disease since Washington was alerted of its presence in the US. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar contended that Trump's early and decisive response to the coronavirus "succeeded in buying us incredibly valuable time." 

Azar explained that the White House has issued a 5-priority request to Congress calling for the expansion of the government's surveillance network, supporting local governments, developing therapeutics, researching vaccines and the manufacturing of gowns and masks. 

Trump warned that Washington was prepared to investigate credible reports of the price gouging of products related to anti-coronavirus efforts

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC Principal Deputy Director, advised individuals to cover their coughs, stay home if they are sick and wash their hands. The health official noted that many of the precautions one takes to avoid getting the flu are applicable to COVID-19. 

Congressional Democrats Criticize 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) slammed Trump on Wednesday and said the US president’s actions were “too late” and “anemic,” but also asserted that it was necessary to have health officials in place and have “resources that are adequate” ready to go if the coronavirus continues to spread in the US.

Earlier that day, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a proposal looking to funnel some $8.5 billion into a number of efforts related to combating COVID-19. The US president made note of the Democrats' proposal during his Wednesday news conference, but argued that $2.5 billion was appropriate at this time. 

Pathology Experts Weigh In

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday that a total of 59 people in the US have been diagnosed with coronavirus. Of those confirmed cases, 12 were identified as “travel-related,” two individuals contracted the disease from person-to-person contact and another three were repatriated from Wuhan, China - COVID-19’s epicenter. The remaining 42 infected citizens were passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and also repatriated to the US.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one repatriated ex-passenger of the cruise ship will be the first trial participant in the research center’s experimental treatment for the novel strain of coronavirus. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH, explained during the February 26 press conference that it may take a anywhere between a year to a year-and-a-half to develop the vaccine. 

Previously, Trump had announced that the threat of the coronavirus was “very much under control” in a Monday tweet which also made light of the February 24 decline in the US stock market.

Trump on the Defensive 

In addition to the stock markets plummeting for three consecutive days, the CDC has warned that it does expect COVID-19 to spread in the US.

“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, reported the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more of a question of when.”

When reporters brought up the CDC's comments during the press conference on Wednesday, Trump fired back, saying that he does not believe that it is inevitable that the coronavirus will spread in the country. 

Trump, who was highly critical of former US President Barack Obama for his handling of the West African Ebola virus epidemic, received similar treatment Wednesday from Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who took a swipe at the US president over his administration’s preparedness for and response to COVID-19 in the US.


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