(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump sought to show his personal engagement in the fight against coronavirus, meeting with drug company executives on Monday to elicit promises of new medicines and announcing he’ll visit federal health agencies later in the week.
At the White House meeting, executives from Gilead Sciences Inc., Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Sanofi, Pfizer Inc. and other manufacturers told Trump they were making rapid progress on vaccines and antivirals to combat the coronavirus, which has infected about 100 people in the country and killed six.
The manufacturers said they hope to have antiviral treatments ready within months and vaccines by next year. Gilead Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel O’Day told Trump that his company may test a promising antiviral in Washington State, where all six deaths from the virus have occurred.
“It’s a very optimistic meeting. I didn’t realize you were that far advanced,” Trump said. “Get it done. We need it.”
Vice President Mike Pence said Trump will visit the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on Tuesday and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta later this week. At a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday evening, Trump promised that “we’re working hard on it and we’re going to come up with some really great solutions.
“We’re going to reduce the severity of what’s happening, the duration of the virus,” Trump said. “We will bring these therapies to market as rapidly as possible.”
Pence said at a briefing for reporters at the White House that South Korea has begun screening all passengers bound for the U.S. from any of their airports for infection. Italy will implement similar screening within 12 hours, Pence said.
The exit screening will entail “multiple temperature checks in the airports for people before they are boarding,” Pence said at a briefing for reporters with federal health officials.
The U.S. has restricted travel from China and Iran to prevent infected people from entering the country. Asked if those restrictions would be expanded, Pence said “the president was very clear we’re going to follow the facts and listen to the experts every step of the way.”
“The American people should know that we are saying you should not travel to certain sections of Italy and South Korea,” Pence said. “We’ll allow the caseload in those countries to define” that guidance is expanded.
The Washington deaths have been centered around a nursing home near Seattle in Kirkland, where there are a large number of suspected patients. In total, there are at least 18 cases in the state, with at least 14 in King County and four in Snohomish County.
A top U.S. disease expert said the coronavirus is likely becoming a pandemic, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he expects more cases after the state identified its first patient.
(Updates with additional Trump remarks beginning in fifth paragraph)
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