Trump, State, Local Officials Address Coronavirus Concerns

"The immediate risk to the American public has been and continues to be low"

WBEN Newsroom
February 26, 2020 - 8:13 pm

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WASHINGTON (WBEN) - President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “very, very ready” for whatever the new coronavirus threat brings.

"The number-one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people," said Trump. "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."

Listen to the full press conference below:

He has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the nation's response, working with the government's top health authorities.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar joined President Trump last night to provide an update on the novel coronavirus. 

"The immediate risk to the American public has been and continues to be low - our containment strategy has been working," said Azar. "At the same time, what every one of 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."

Trump has been pushing back against criticism that his administration isn't doing enough to meet the coronavirus threat. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are calling for much more money than the $2.5 billion the White House has requested, and Trump indicated at a news conference that he'd be open to more spending. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has asked for $8.5 billion. 

On a state level, Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked state lawmakers to pledge $40 million in funding to help prevent the spread of a potential outbreak, which the CDC says in inevitable to happen somewhere in the United States.

While there aren't any confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York, Erie County officials want to assure residents that they're working on plans to mitigate spread, if it were to appear in the region.

"We're taking this opportunity, where we have a time that we don't have any of the COVID-19 virus in our community, to take time out to really thoughtfully plan courses of action," said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "Because there's no immunization to protect us, and there's no anti-viral medication to treat us if we are infected with the COVID-19 virus, we really have to depend on strategies that are really involved - Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention."

As there are always rumors flying around, especially on social media sites, Burstein urges the public to make sure they're getting their facts from legitimate sources.

"In times when there's a lot of unknowns, people get very concerned, then the false rumors start to spread," she said. "In the times where we're trying to deal with the community with how to handle a potential pandemic of a novel viral strain, we really need to be able to communicate accurate information to the community."

Listen to Burstein's full comments below:

Since emerging in China in December, it has sickened more than 81,000 people and killed 2,700 around the world. U.S. cases total more than 50 so far.

In New York, Cuomo’s proposed $40 million would go toward hiring additional state health staffers and buying supplies including protective masks and gloves.

The Democratic governor said he also plans to propose legislation to help the state make sure hospitals and health departments are prepared for a possible outbreak.

He said he also plans soon to convene state and local health officials to develop uniform steps for handling quarantines and other methods of stopping the virus from spreading.

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