President Trump on Coronavirus: Our Priority is the Health and Safety of the American People

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Posted: Feb 26, 2020 7:15 PM
President Trump on Coronavirus: Our Priority is the Health and Safety of the American People

Source: (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)

Speaking to reporters and flanked by administration health officials in the White House briefing room Wednesday night, President Trump reassured the country the federal government is taking extensive measures to combat and prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

"The number one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people," Trump said, touting early decisions to close flights from areas in China hit early by the virus. "Because of all we've done, the risk to the American people remains very low. We have the greatest experts in the world right here."

"We're ready to adapt and do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads," he continued. 

Citing his experience building Indiana's healthcare infrastructure as governor, President Trump announced Vice President Mike Pence will oversee a new coronavirus task force.

"As a former governor form the state where the first MERS case emerged in 2014 I know full well the importance of presidential leadership, the importance of administration leadership and the vital role of partnerships of state and local governments and health authorities in responding to the potential threat of dangerous, infectious diseases," Pence said. "I look forward, Mr. President, to serving in this role and bringing together all of the members of this coronavirus task force you have established: HHS, CDC, DHS, the Department of Transportation and State." 

Earlier this week the Trump administration sent a $1.5 billion dollar emergency budget request to Capitol Hill. President Trump said today Democrats and Republicans are working on getting to the right number. Democrats want $8 billion and Republicans want $4 billion for the effort. 

"We've been working with the hill very very carefully, very strongly and I think we have good bipartisan spirit for money," he said.  

President Trump noted that Americans who have been infected with the virus are recovering or are fully recovered. 

"Of the 15 people, the original 15 as I call them, eight of them have returned to their homes to stay in their homes until fully recovered. One is in the hospital and five have fully recovered and one is we think in pretty good shape and is in-between the hospital and going home," Trump said. 

In China, where the virus began and information about its spread was downplayed, new cases have reportedly slowed. President Trump said he has been in touch with Chinese President Xi about the ongoing situation. 

"The immediate risk to the American public has been and continues to be low. Our containment strategy has been working," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. "At the same time, what every one our experts and leaders have been saying for more than a month now remains true. The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly and we can expect to see more cases in the United States."