Coronavirus response: Trump to hold White House news conference on efforts

The president complained that media outlets were "doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible."
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One as he concludes his two day visit to India, at Air Force Station Palam in New Delhi on Feb. 25, 2020.Al Drago / Reuters

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By Allan Smith

As warnings on the spread of the deadly coronavirus intensified and markets plummeted, President Donald Trump announced he will hold a White House news conference on the outbreak Wednesday evening alongside representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others.

"I will be having a News Conference at the White House, on this subject, today at 6:00 P.M," Trump tweeted. "CDC representatives, and others, will be there. Thank you!"

Upon returning from an overseas trip to India, Trump complained that media outlets were "doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible," misspelling the name of the virus. He then criticized the pushback from Democrats on the administration's response to the outbreak and added, "USA in great shape!"

The president also tweeted that he would take part in a coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Trump's tweets come after the CDC warned Tuesday it's only a matter of time before the illness, known as COVID-19, will spread across communities in the United States.

"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, told reporters on a conference call, adding, "We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad."

Coronavirus fears have spooked markets, which fell dramatically for the second straight day Tuesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 900 points. One day prior, the Dow dropped more than 1,000 points.

Speaking at a press conference in India, Trump said the situation is "very well under control in our country."

"I think that whole situation will start working out. Lot of talent, a lot of brainpower is being put behind it," he said.

Later in the day, Trump's acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was grilled by senators on Capitol Hill over the administration's response.

"You're supposed to keep us safe," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said amid a back and forth. "And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus — and I'm not getting them from you," Kennedy said.

"I disagree," Wolf said.

On Monday, the White House sent over to Congress a budget plan for $2.5 billion that would provide funds to speed up vaccine development and production, and stockpile protective equipment — a funding amount that Democrats called inadequate. Administration officials briefed members of Congress about the actions they were taking Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., unveiled an $8.5 billion proposal for emergency funding Wednesday to combat any outbreak of the virus in the U.S. — more than three times the White House's request.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday morning that the House plans to unveil a proposal similar to Schumer's, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters the White House request was "a little low" and suggested that Republicans would be more comfortable with a funding bill closer to $4 billion.

The subject came up at Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina, with the Democratic contenders hitting Trump for his administration's response.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., mocked Trump's claims that the coronavirus is "under control."

"In the White House today, we have a self-described 'great genius' — self-described," Sanders said. "And this great genius has told us that this coronavirus is going to end in two months. I wish I was kidding. That is what he said."

For his part, Trump tweeted Tuesday that his administration was doing a "GREAT job of handling" the response.

Rebecca Shabad and Haley Talbot contributed.