Vice President Pence to lead U.S. government response to coronavirus

Vice President Pence to lead U.S. government response to coronavirus

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - President Donald Trump is pledging to spend the billions of dollars it could take to contain the coronavirus in the United States.

“Regardless of what happens, we are totally prepared.”

Those words from President Trump as he addressed reporters Wednesday, trying to reassure the nation his administration is prepared if the coronavirus turns into a pandemic. The CDC, a day earlier, wanted Americans to brace for the possibility.

The President announced he’s putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Pence will oversee meetings with officials from Health and Human Services, the CDC, Homeland Security, along with the Transportation and State departments. The Vice President praised the administration’s swift response to the coronavirus crisis so far: enacting a travel ban restricting non-U.S. citizens coming in from China, screening travelers at multiple airports, quarantining the infected and declaring a public health emergency.

“In recent days, the White House met with over 40 state, county and city health officials from over 30 states and territories to discuss how to respond to this, to the potential threat of the coronavirus," Pence said during the Wednesday evening news conference. "We’ll be working with them in renewed ways to make sure they have the resources to be able to respond.”

President Trump said Pence’s time as governor of Indiana, the first state where the MERS virus emerged in 2014, prepared him for this significant leadership role.

“Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared," he said. "We have the best people in the world. You see that from the Johns Hopkins study. We have the best prepared people, the best people in the world. Congress is willing to give us much more than we’re asking for. It’s nice for a change. But we are totally ready, willing and able.”

The President said they’re requesting $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the coronavirus. He added that some GOP members of Congress would like to get $4 billion, while some democrats would like to see as much as $8 billion earmarked to combat a possible outbreak in the U.S.

The CDC reports 59 cases of the coronavirus in America, including 42 passengers infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. President Trump said the outbreak “may get bigger, it may not.” A short time later the CDC confirmed the first possible “community spread” of the virus in California. Health experts have not been able to pinpoint how the patient contracted the virus.

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