U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the administration’s coronavirus task force, on Saturday sought to reassure the country as the first domestic death from the new disease was reported.
Trump called for the media and politicians “not do anything to incite a panic because there's no reason to panic at all.”
"Whatever the circumstance, we’re prepared,” he said.
Trump’s administration is imposing further travel restrictions related to Iran due to a significant coronavirus outbreak there and issuing “do not travel” warnings for the regions of Italy and South Korea that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.
Trump has authorized a ban on foreign nationals who have traveled to Iran in the past 14 days, announced by Pence, who added that the State Department is working with the Italian and South Korean governments to enhance screenings in those countries of individuals traveling to the United States.
Additional travel restrictions could be imposed, including along the border with Mexico.
“We're thinking about all borders,” Trump said.
The president took to the podium in the Brady Briefing Room in the White House West wing shortly after officials in the state of Washington, in the northwest United States, announced the country’s first COVID-19 death.
Trump, at his second news conference in four days about the virus, said, “If you’re healthy, you’ll probably go through a process and you’ll be fine.”
Other health officials stressed that they expect most of the of COVID-19 fatalities will be older people with existing serious health problems.
Worldwide, 15% to 20% of those who have contracted the virus have needed advanced medical care, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
Trump announced he will meet Monday with executives of pharmaceutical companies to discuss the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
Asked by VOA what powers he could invoke to expedite the drug approval process so a coronavirus vaccine could be deployed quicker, Trump said, “Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, this process will go very quickly.”
The head of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, added: “We're using our authorities in an expedited fashion to help with the development of therapeutics, particularly around the coronavirus.”
Hahn said a policy was issued Saturday morning “that allows us to have a lot of flexibility around the development of diagnostic test” and that is expected to also have a significant impact in expediting approvals of a vaccine.
The timing of the unusual Saturday afternoon briefing underscored the seriousness of the crisis for the administration, which has faced criticism for a tardy and disorganized response to the spread of the disease, especially from Democratic Party leaders in Congress.
Asked about his remarks the previous evening at a political rally referring to the coronavirus crisis as the latest hoax of the Democrats, Trump said he was not intending to minimize the coronavirus threat.
“Again, the hoax was used in respect to Democrats and what they were saying,” Trump said.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers also have said his request for an additional $2.5 billion to defend against the virus was not enough. Trump has said he is willing to accept billions more from Congress to fight the disease.
Amid the coronavirus fears, U.S. stock indexes suffered their largest drops the past week since the 2008 global financial crisis.
“The markets will all come back,” Trump said, again encouraging the Federal Reserve, the country’s central bank, to cut interest rates.
“I think the Fed has a very important role, especially psychological,” he said. “If you look at it, the Fed has a massive impact.”