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Trump taps VP Pence as coronavirus task force chief

Shawn M. Carter

President Donald Trump  Wednesday named Vice President Mike Pence to head the administration's coronavirus task force while holding a press conference at the White House.

Pence said of his new responsibilities,  “My role will be to continue to bring together the best options for action." Part of those responsibilities will be working with Congress according to Trump.

The president re-iterated that the number one "priority is the health and safety of the American people" Trump said, "We are ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to, as the disease spreads if it spreads."

TRUMP FIRES BACK AGAINST CORONAVIRUS CRITICISMS BY DEMOCRATS

Trump also spoke of how much funding  his administration is seeking and confirmed he is asking for $2.5 billion, but added, "We think that’s a lot, but the Democrats, and I guess, Senator Schumer, want us to have much more than that….if they want to give more we’ll do more." Chuck Schumer, the senate minority leader, has said the figure is too low and has floated an $8 billion plan.

Since the first reports of the virus broke in December of 2019 from China’s Wuhan, Hubei Province, the virus has spread to 42 new locations, infecting more than 80,000 people and killing nearly 3,000.

Despite concerns that China was not being transparent at the outset of the virus, Trump said he has spoken to President Xi and is confident the Middle Kingdom is working to solve the crisis.

"I had a talk with him very recently and he is working so hard on this problem, he is working so hard," said Trump "It is a significant group of very talented people that are working on (the problem) and they’re calling up Dr. Fauci and they are calling up our people, we’re dealing with them." Most importantly, Trump said Xi "wants it to go away from China and go away fast and he wants to get back to business as usual."

As for the potential spread of the virus in the U.S., Trump said, "I don't think it is inevitable. I think we are doing a really good job of maintaining the border" and "checking" people as they enter the United States. "I think there is a chance it could get worse but nothing is inevitable, " he added.

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Still, while there are just 60 confirmed U.S. cases, including 44 Americans who were infected aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and flown back for treatment, health officials earlier this week at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned that number could soon grow.

“Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country,” Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a conference call earlier this week, adding that the agency is “asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

INVESTORS BARGAIN HUNTING IN CORONAVIRUS-LED MARKET SLUMP

While Trump's press briefing was designed to reassure Americans, it was also a chance to try and calm the stock market. Regarding the recent stock market turmoil, Trump said the coronavirus was responsible for "quite a bit of selloff" but also blamed the Democratic presidential candidates.  "I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democratic candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves and they say 'If we ever have a President like this'," referring to his rivals constant criticism of his administration, "I think that has a huge effect."

However, Trump quickly promised,  "I think after I win the election the stock market is going to boom like it has never boomed before.”

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