Over the last few days, both the CDC and officials from the NIH have warned Americans that the coronavirus will eventually spread across the United States.
“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier.
According to NBC News: “The CDC said Americans should prepare for the possibility of disruptions to their daily lives if the virus were to start spreading in the U.S. That could include closing schools, working from home and delaying elective medical procedures.”
Dr. Messonnier and the CDC gave these dire warnings through a media release on Tuesday, which can be listened to in its entirety on the CDC’s website.
These warnings come as multiple countries have now reported new cases of the coronavirus, as well as deaths caused by the illness. According to CBS News on Tuesday, “Italy reported a 45% single-day increase in infections. Italian officials reported 10 deaths and 322 confirmed coronavirus cases.”
Iran and South Korea have also reported coronavirus cases and deaths, with South Korea claiming they currently have about 1,000 cases and at least 10 confirmed deaths.
With the spread of the coronavirus to multiple Asian, European, and Middle Eastern countries, it’s become clear that the U.S. will also see its share of coronavirus cases. The World Health Organization is not yet calling the coronavirus a “pandemic,” but as the illness continues to spread to more countries and regions across the globe, it seems inevitable that it will eventually be given that distinction.
We’ve already seen an effect on global markets, with the Dow Jones dropping two consecutive days this week, out of fears the coronavirus will impact multiple industries, especially those that manufacture their goods in countries hard hit by the virus.
Now the question is whether or not the United States is prepared for a coronavirus outbreak and what the government will do to combat it.
While President Trump and his administration continue to claim the U.S. has a handle on the coronavirus, professionals from the CDC and NIH have contradicted those claims.
Larry Kudlow, one of Trump’s top advisers, told CNBC on Tuesday “[w]e have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight.”
This comment immediately received criticism from health professionals, including University of Minnesota’s director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, Michael Osterholm, who, according to NBC News, said in response: ” This is like trying to control the wind, we will see serious problems here in the United States and no amount of political rhetoric will over-trump the science of what we have here.”
The president and his administration is also facing criticism from congress members from both parties. Trump has asked for $2.5 billion from Congress to help combat the virus in the U.S., but those on Capitol Hill say that simply is not enough.
Senator Chuck Schumer is now calling for $8.5 billion to respond to the coronavirus threat, calling it an “emergency spending package,” while Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, has called the president’s $2.5 billion proposal “long overdue” and “completely inadequate.”
Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said in a Politico article: “It could be an existential threat to a lot of people in this country. … So money should not be an object. We should try to contain and eradicate this as much as we can, both in the U.S. and helping our friends all over the world.”
Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant, said to USA Today, “At this point, it is urgently important that the administration develop a bipartisan plan and communicate facts on this subject to the public.”
President Trump is also facing criticism for being less than honest with the American people on Tuesday, when he promised that a vaccine for the coronavirus is in the works: “There’s a very good chance you’re not going to die. It’s just the — it’s very much the opposite. You’re talking about 1 or 2 percent, whereas in the other case, it was a virtual 100 percent. Now they have it, they have studied it, know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”
These claims made by the president were immediately fact-checked by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who told NBC that a vaccine for the coronavirus won’t be available for at least another year. He also corrected the president by saying the death rate in China is actually closer to 2.0 or 2.5 percent.
The current administration has also been criticized for making drastic cuts to the CDC; eliminating positions within the government that would be used to fight pandemics; no longer employing someone in the National Security Council to manage global health security; and changing “the way the U.S. manages its stockpile of medical equipment, such as respirators and face masks needed by health workers” (NBC News).
On Wednesday night, President Trump addressed the country in a press conference. His statements in that address have already been criticized, as he continued to contradict the warnings coming from other government agencies.
President Trump also used the press conference to announce Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus efforts, touting Pence’s healthcare work in Indiana as proof that he is qualified to handle this potential outbreak.
As this story continues to develop, well will bring you additional information.