WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said he’ll discuss the coronavirus threat at a White House news conference Wednesday, a day after he sought to minimize fears of the virus spreading widely across the U.S.
Trump tweeted that representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others, would join him at the late-afternoon appearance.
Trump and members of the administration have been sending mixed messages about the virus.
The CDC on Tuesday warned the American public to prepare for an an outbreak of the disease, which has spawned more than 80,000 cases around the world but relatively few so far in the U.S.
But before he flew home from India on Tuesday, Trump said the coronavirus situation is “very well under control in our country.”
While that is so — the U.S. has only a few cases, mostly from travelers outside the country — medical experts cautioned that a pandemic would leave no country unaffected.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease chief, told CNN that “we need to be able to think about how we will respond to a pandemic outbreak.”
Arriving back in the U.S. early Wednesday, Trump immediately began to push back against critics who say he should have acted sooner to bolster the federal response to the coronavirus.
He tweeted that the CDC, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar “and all doing a great job with respect to Coronavirus!” and announced that he would get a briefing on the matter later Wednesday.
“I will be having a News Conference at the White House, on this subject, today at 6:00 P.M. CDC representatives, and others, will be there.”
Trump also criticized some news media coverage of the coronavirus.
Azar was scheduled Wednesday to testify to Congress about appropriations for his department, with questioning about the administration’s coronavirus preparations likely.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also engaged in the pushback after returning with Trump. Grisham retweeted a CDC post that said “there is currently no reported community spread” of coronavirus in the U.S.
In the tweet, the CDC advised people to take the usual precautions to avoid spreading the virus, such as staying home when sick and washing hands with soap and water.
Fauci said the first U.S. clinical trials for a possible coronavirus vaccine could begin in one to two months. He said a vaccine is a year to a year-and-a-half away.
He said that while only a few cases have turned up in the U.S. from travelers outside the country, a pandemic would affect every country. A pandemic involves the continual spread of sustained transmission from person to person in multiple regions and hemispheres throughout the world simultaneously, Fauci noted.
As for a possible vaccine, Fauci said the U.S. is one to two months from way from a Phase One trial to determine safety.
“But that doesn’t mean you have a vaccine,” Fauci cautioned. “In order to get a vaccine that’s practically deployable for people to use…it’s going to be a year to a year and a half at best.”