WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “very, very ready” for whatever the new coronavirus threat brings, even as health authorities warn Americans that more infections are coming.
Shortly after a presidential news conference, the government announced a worrisome development — a new U.S. case that so far hasn’t been linked to travel abroad.
It is a person in California who had no known travel to a country where a virus outbreak has been taking place, or connection to a known patient. It’s a possible sign the virus is spreading in a community.
Trump has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the nation’s response.
Trump has been pushing back against criticism that his administration isn’t doing enough to meet the coronavirus threat.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are calling for much more money than the $2.5 billion the White House has requested, and Trump indicated at a news conference that he’d be open to more spending.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has asked for $8.5 billion.
Schumer said Wednesday the money would be an emergency spending request.
The money would go toward efforts to contain the outbreak in the U.S., vaccine development and manufacture, and reimbursement to states for their costs in tackling the outbreak.
Trump faces a critical challenge as he tries to grapple with the new coronavirus outbreak: He must ask Americans to believe him even as he and top advisers have contradicted government scientists in playing down the threat.
The stakes for Trump are enormous, not simply from a public health and economic perspective, but also for his credibility.
As Americans prepare for what experts say is an inevitable outbreak in the country, the X-factor may be an unpredictable president who has clashed repeatedly with scientists in his own administration and tends to see any crisis through the lens of his own reelection chances.
The administration has asked Congress for an additional $2.5 billion to speed development of a vaccine, but officials say any vaccine is well over a year away.
Trump and members of his administration have been sending mixed signals about the virus.
While the CDC has warned the public to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak, Trump said Tuesday that the situation is “very well under control in our country.”
The South Korean and U.S. militaries postponed their annual joint drills out of concerns over a viral outbreak that has infected soldiers in both countries’ armed forces, put many troops in quarantine and closed base facilities.
Twenty South Korean soldiers and one American service member in South Korea have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
South Korea has already suspended some unilateral field training, placed 9,570 troops under quarantine and banned most of its enlisted soldiers from leaving their bases.
The U.S. military closed some amenities at several bases and was urging its personnel to avoid handshakes and large gatherings if possible.
The new virus is taking a broader toll on airline travel.
Most airlines have already stopped flying to China, and now Delta Air Lines is sharply cutting back on flights between the U.S. and Seoul, South Korea, because of the outbreak.
Delta said Wednesday it will suspend flights between Minneapolis and Seoul beginning this weekend and lasting until at least April 30.
The airline will also reduce the number of flights from Korea to Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle.
Delta, United and American have already suspended all flights to and from mainland China and Hong Kong for several more weeks.
Syracuse University is going to close a study abroad program in Italy because of the spread of the new coronavirus.
School officials announced Tuesday that the university will assist the 342 students studying at its Florence campus in their return to the U.S.
Most students will return to the university’s campus in upstate New York, but they will not be allowed back until after spring break in March.
School officials decided to close the campus after a confirmed case was reported in Florence this week, prompting the closure of the University of Florence and restrictions on public gatherings.
Italy’s death toll rose to 12 on Wednesday and the caseload reached 374.