The Trump administration has offered myriad responses in the face of a growing global virus outbreak that has left thousands dead and at least 80,000 infected worldwide, even as health experts warn the United States may be in danger.
Donald Trump claimed on Wednesday that the country was in “great shape” just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned COVID-19, the disease caused by a strain coronavirus that officials say originated in China, could spread across the nation.
“Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC [sic] (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!” he tweeted Wednesday morning.
Trump, who has asked for just $2.5 billion in emergency supplemental funds to address the threat, also said that he and CDC representatives would discuss the issue further in a news conference Wednesday evening.
Trump’s previous comments have similarly presented a message that everything is “totally under control.” He has also made scientifically dubious predictions that warmer spring weather would weaken the virus.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have criticized Trump’s response, with Democrats faulting the administration’s ‘lack of leadership’ and plan. Congressional Democrats have faulted the administration’s “lack of leadership” and “lack of plan.”
Even some Republican have pushed back on the confusing responses coming out of the administration, with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) accusing it of low balling the $2.5 billion emergency funding request and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warning of a potential “pandemic.”
“The U.S. government has a responsibility to protect Americans, and it’s important the American people have clarity on how the United States and the aviation industry in particular is working to contain this disease,” Cruz wrote on Facebook Wednesday.
So far, however, the administration has not offered one cohesive plan of action to address the threat.
Here’s a look how different parts of the administration have responded to the threat so far.
On Tuesday, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency expects “we will see community spread in this country” and warned that its “disruption to everyday life might be severe.”
National Economic Council
On Tuesday, the National Economic Council’s director, Larry Kudlow, said that novel coronavirus had been “contained,” claiming, “I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight.”
Department of Homeland Security
Acting Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf told a Senate committee on Tuesday, “Today, the risks from coronavirus to Americans remains relatively low, and we will continue to implement measures designed to keep it that way.”
Pressed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), however, Wolf was unable to provide any estimates of how many Americans would likely contract the virus, but acknowledged, “We do anticipate the number will grow.”
His acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli tweeted on Tuesday, “CDC putting prudent guidance out while we aggressively work to keep the virus contained. In the US, communities should prepare for the possibility the virus could break out in parts of the US.”
Department of Health and Human Services
On Wednesday morning, Heath and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar told Congress, “The risk right now is very low to Americans. As Larry Kudlow said, from a public health perspective, we technically are in a state of containment in the United States.”
Azar acknowledged though that “that could change rapidly” and warned “we fully expect we will see more cases here in the United States.”
On Monday, White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told Fox News, “We need some funding here to make sure that we protect all Americans.” He added that “we need to combat this, we need to make sure our people are safe and the president is always going to take action to do that.”
Elsewhere that same day Gidley told reporters that Trump’s “concerns are always the safety and security of the American people, and so in this instance, because he has taken such aggressive action, because he does continue to receive briefings on a daily basis, he just wants to ensure the spread of this virus does not move quickly in this country at all.”
On Wednesday, asked about the contradictory messages, White House spokesperson Judd Deere told the Washington Post that concerns about the outbreak were being fanned by Trump’s critics. “Unfortunately what we are seeing today is a political effort by the Left and some in the media to distract and disturb the American people with fearful rhetoric and palace intrigue,” he said.
He added, “The virus remains low risk domestically because of the containment actions taken by this Administration since the first of the year.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.