US coronavirus cases reach 60, Trump says US is best prepared
By Nikhila Natarajan New York, Feb 27 (IANS)the US President Donald Trump has declared that the country was “best prepared”, “ready, willing and able” and “Number One” among worlds nations to battle the coronavirus outbreak as the newest case from California took the total number infected in America to 60 and a vaccine was said to be at least one year away, for now.At an hour long White House briefing on Wednesday, Trump surrounded himself with his administration’s top health experts and sought to calm the American public saying coronavirus risk in the country is at a “low level” and “this will end, it has to end”.Standing next to Trump, health experts from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked schools, businesses and all of society to be prepared if the virus takes a turn for the worse. “It can happen very suddenly, very quickly,” they said.The coronavirus has killed more than 2,700 people – mostly in China and none in the US.
Health officials have been on high alert for community spread of the virus and said common-sense public health measures are the best asset for preparedness until the vaccine is ready. “The coronavirus that we’re talking about is a respiratory virus. It spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza it spread through coughs and sneezes. So, those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here, covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick and washing your hands”, said Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The NIH’s top infectious disease chief Anthony Fauci cautioned a vaccine won’t be ready for widespread use for a year or more. He also warned that the virus may not be seasonal and it is “quite conceivable” that it might “come back and recycle next year”.
Health officials have already spent $105 million in emergency funding and Trump has requested $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the virus. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York countered with a proposal for $8.5 billion. “We’ll take it”, Trump said. He said the US is ready to spend “whatever’s appropriate”, to strengthen the US response to coronavirus. Coronavirus has now spread from China to 39 countries with more than 80,000 cases being reported at last count.
Trump confirmed that the US has 15 cases detected locally and 42 Americans “brought in” from the Diamond Princess cruise ship evacuated by the federal government to the US from where the ship was docked in Japan. Three others were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.Shortly after Trump spoke, the CDC announced the latest person infected in California does not appear to have travelled abroad or exposed to another patient. Pending confirmation, this would be a first for the US. Trump credited his border restrictions that have blocked people coming into the US from China for keeping infections at a “low level” so far.”I took a lot of heat for some very early decisions to restrict travel from the sick areas.
I was even called racist but we’re in a good place today because of those decisions I took,” Trump said.”This is going to end, sooner or later,” he said, seeking to minimise fears of the virus spreading widely across the US.Trump compared the “low level” impact of coronavirus so far in the US with data of yearly flu-related deaths in the country. “I was shocked when I heard this. The flu kills 25,000-69,000 people a year,” the President said. Looking ahead to the summer of 2020, Trump is encouraging Americans to make more domestic travel plans and visit more places within the US. Trump has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating US efforts to battle coronavirus.
(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at @byniknat)–IANSnikhila/ksk/