(WASHINGTON) — Pence to lead US response to coronavirus after days of mixed messages(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Mike Pence will lead the U.S. response to coronavirus.”I’m going to be announcing exactly right now that I’m going to be putting our Vice President Mike Pence in charge,” President Donald Trump said at a news conference Wednesday evening. “And Mike will be working with the professionals, the doctors and everybody else that’s working. The team is brilliant.”Pence “will report back to me,” Trump said.The announcement came following days of sending mixed messages on the risk the coronavirus poses to the United States.Because of the steps the administration had already taken, Trump said Wednesday evening. “The risk to the American people remains very low.””The number one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people,” he added.Following Trump’s comments, Pence spoke and also sought to allay any fears.”The threat to the American public remains low,” he said.”My role will be to continue to bring that team together, to bring to the president the best options for action to see to the safety and well being and health of the American people. We’ll also be continuing to reach out to governors, state and local officials,” Pence said. “We will be working with them in renewed ways to make sure they have the resources to be able to respond and as the president said, we’ll be adding additional personnel here at the White House to support our efforts on the president’s behalf.”Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar echoed Trump’s comments that what the U.S. government has already been doing has worked, but warned that the number of cases would go up.”The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly,” Azar said. “And we can expect to see more cases in the United States. That is why we’ve been reminding the American public and our state, local, and private sector partners that they should be aware of what a broader response would look like.”Centers for Disease Control Director Anthony Fauci said a potential vaccine would take a year and a half and in order to contain the coronavirus, the focus has to be on public health measures.Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, encouraged people to prepare.”We do expect more cases and this is a good time to prepare. As you heard, it’s the perfect time for businesses, health care systems, universities and schools, to look at their pandemic preparedness plans, dust them off and make sure they are ready and we have lots more information at the CDC’s website and in partnership on how to do that,” she said during Wednesday’s news conference.She also suggested Americans cover their mouths when they cough, stay home when they’re sick and wash their hands.Trump announced the news conference at the White House with Centers for Disease Control representatives Wednesday morning and blamed news organizations for making coronavius “look as bad as possible.””Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!” he tweeted.Shortly after Trump returned to Washington on Wednesday morning from his two-day visit to India, Trump tweeted that the CDC and his administration were doing a “great job.”In contrast to what the president and his aides have been saying about the situation being contained, CDC officials warned Americans of “significant disruption” coming because of the virus.”Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday at a news conference.On Tuesday night, while traveling back to Washington on Air Force One, he tweeted in response to the Democratic candidates who blasted his handling of the coronavirus crisis during their debate in South Carolina.Trump, speaking in New Delhi on Tuesday, played down concerns about the coronavirus in the U.S., saying the situation was “under control” and was a “problem that’s going to go away.””We have very few people with it,” Trump told reporters, adding that he was not totally caught up on the latest details because of his trip to India but that “the people are getting better, they’re all getting better,” referring to patients in the U.S.”I think that whole situation will start working out. Lot of talent, lot of brain power is being put behind it,” he said.Trump’s comments come on the heels of sharp criticism from Democrats in Congress on the response from the White House. The administration on Monday asked Congress for emergency funding to deal with crisis — $1.25 billion in new funding and another $1.25 billion shifted from existing funding previously allocated for other reasons, including some designated to deal with the Ebola virus.Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Wednesday morning he’s preparing a detailed Democratic request for emergency coronavirus funding totaling $8.5 billion. It’s expected to be finalized Wednesday and sent to appropriators.Following Schumer’s announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday morning called the president’s $2.5 billion request to combat coronavirus “anemic.””What he’s doing is late — too late — anemic,” Pelosi said. “Hopefully, we can make up for the loss of time, but it will have to have the professionals in place, the resources that are adequate and not be using scare tactics about people coming back to our country.”She said the House will have a proposal “similar” to the plan put forth by the Senate.Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have questioned Trump”s top advisers this week on whether the administration was doing enough almost two months into the global crisis, expressing deep skepticism of the president”s claims that the situation was “under control.””That is a remarkable level of containment here in the United States,” Azar told reporters at a press conference Tuesday, later adding that “we are realistic” there would be more cases.Azar, in a second day of testimony before the House Appropriations, called the community transmission of the virus in other nations “concerning.””We still have only 14 cases of the novel coronvirus detected in the United States involving travel to or close contacts with travelers,” Azar said in his opening statement Wednesday, doubling down on earlier comments. “The immediate risk to the American public remains low, but there is now community transmission in a number of countries including outside of Asia which is deeply concerning.”Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said to Azar point-blank, “Provide me some security that someone knows what’s going on in this administration about the coronavirus.”Azar responded, “the risk right now is very low to Americans.””…we have always been clear that number one that could change rapidly, and from the outset I and the public health experts said we fully expect we will see more cases here in the United States,” he continued. “We have to be mentally prepared and also as a government prepared.”Later, when Pocan asked about a Politico report that the White House is considering appointing a coronavirus czar, Azar, after first saying he wouldn’t comment, then said he doesn’t anticipate one now or in the near future.
After HHS Sec. Alex Azar says he doesn't currently anticipate a czar to be appointed to coordinate the government's coronavirus response, Rep. Mark Pocan says, "That's good. Jared Kushner will have more free time, then." https://t.co/c8NVaoA7h7 pic.twitter.com/8gvwtTq52U
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“I don’t anticipate one. This is working extremely well.” he said, referring to how he and HHS are leading the administration effort. “If it doesn’t work or if there’s a need for change… then that would be for the president to decide,” Azar said.As health officials warn the coronavirus likely will spread throughout communities in the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged Tuesday for the second straight day, tumbling 879 points.The Dow fell more than 3% when trading closed, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also tumbling Tuesday, by more than 3% and by more than 2.7%, respectively. The Dow was up significantly Wednesday morning. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.