Trump taps Pence to head up coronavirus outbreak response

Kathryn Watson
Trump taps Pence to head up coronavirus outbreak response

Washington — President Trump announced Wednesday night that he's placing Vice President Mike Pence in charge of efforts to tackle the coronavirus, as the administration seeks to reassure the public and the markets amid the global coronavirus outbreak. The president, speaking for only the second time from the White House press briefing room, tried to instill confidence that his administration is on top of the health epidemic.

Speaking to reporters while flanked by Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and other officials on his coronavirus task force, the president said the risk to Americans from the virus is "very low," even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns Americans to prepare for disruptions of their normal lives and the spread of the virus is a matter of if, not when. Mr. Trump appeared to disagree with that assessment.

"I don't think it's inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we're totally prepared," the president told reporters.

Minutes after the president ended his press conference, the CDC announced a confirmed case of the virus in California in someone "who reportedly did not have relevant history or exposure to another known patient with COVID-19," the official name for the virus that experts believe originated in China.