WASHINGTON D.C. — President Donald Trump on Saturday urged the nation to remain calm in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak, saying additional cases in United States were “likely” as his administration announced new travel restrictions aimed at limiting its spread.
Trump was joined by members of his administration’s coronavirus task force as he made comments from the White House briefing room hours after the first fatality from the disease in the US was confirmed.
“Additional cases in the US are likely,” Trump said, “but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover.”
The President also sought to reassure the country even as new cases emerged, saying there is no need for Americans to “panic at all.”
“We respectfully ask the media and politicians and everybody else involved not do anything to incite the panic, because there’s no reason to panic at all,” Trump said.
The President also offered his condolences to the first coronavirus death in America, describing the patient, who died in Washington state, as a “medically high-risk patient in her late 50s.”
The Washington woman appears to have become ill through community spread, according to Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who spoke alongside the President.
Travel and coronavirus
Vice President Mike Pence said at the briefing that the US would be expanding travel restrictions from Iran “to include any foreign national who has visited Iran within the last 14 days.” He also said the US would heighten a travel advisory for specific regions of Italy and South Korea.
“We are urging Americans to not travel to the areas in Italy and the areas in South Korea that are most affected by the coronavirus,” Pence said.
Pence also emphasized that “the average American does not need to go out and buy a mask,” and that at least 35 million more masks per month are expected to be produced for the United States.
More courses of action to increase the availability of masks to high-risk health care workers will be announced later Saturday, Pence said.
Trump also said he’ll be meeting with pharmaceutical companies at the White House on Monday to discuss developing a coronavirus vaccine.
The President’s update followed a briefing from his coronavirus task force earlier in the day, which Trump said lasted for more than two and a half hours.
The President said there are now 22 cases of the novel coronavirus in the US. This number does not include individuals repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China, or from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Those cases have been counted separately by the CDC.
There are four instances of possible community spread transmission of coronavirus — two in California, one in Oregon and one in Washington.
At Saturday’s briefing, Trump asserted that “the markets are very strong,” even though three major stock indexes this week posted their worst weekly percentage drops since the 2008 financial crisis.
“The markets will all come back,” Trump said. “We have one problem — we have to get this problem brought into focus.”
“It’s certainly not a good situation. When you lose travel that’s a big part of market. But for a period of time we’re going to have to do what’s necessary. Safety, health — number one. The markets will take care of themselves,” he continued.
The President suggested the Federal Reserve should take measures to assist with the economic dip that has resulted from the coronavirus outbreak. He also brought up his long-anticipated middle-income tax cuts.
The President has previously appeared to downplay the effects of coronavirus, saying earlier this week that he did not think community spread of the infections disease in the country was “inevitable,” despite that fact that CDC officials have been assessing that they expect to see community spread within the country.
Trump has rarely delivered remarks to the press from the White House briefing room, but his Saturday appearance marks his second time in the room in less than a week.
The President said at a rally in South Carolina Friday that Democrats are now “politicizing” the virus. “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” Trump said. “They have no clue, they can’t even count their votes in Iowa.”
“This is their new hoax,” Trump added.
On Saturday, Trump said he doesn’t think coronavirus itself is a “hoax,” but the criticism is. Asked if he regretted calling it a hoax during Friday’s rally, Trump said he didn’t.
“Hoax referring to the action that they take to try and pin this on somebody,” the President explained. “I’m not talking about what’s happening here, I’m talking about what they’re doing.”
Trump called it the “continuation of the hoax,” and mentioned the Russia investigation and his impeachment.
“I don’t like it when they are criticizing these people, and I don’t like it,” he said. “That’s the hoax I’m talking about.”
Worldwide, the virus has killed at least 2,922 — including 2,835 people in China — and there have been 85,055 confirmed cases.
A senior administration official told CNN on Friday that Trump’s mid-March meeting with leaders of southeast Asian countries in Las Vegas had been postponed.
This story has been updated with additional details from the briefing.