President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he did not believe the coronavirus outbreak would be "anywhere near a worst-case scenario" in the United States.
Trump held a White House press conference to spell out what the administration was doing to combat the disease, which has affected tens of thousands around the world but has minimally affected the United States so far. Government and private health experts say the outbreak has the potential to change quickly.
Trump said the country was "very, very ready … even if it's a breakout of larger proportions."
U.S. health officials on Wednesday reported 14 confirmed coronavirus cases in the nation so far, with another 42 Americans quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan.
Trump said the risk of catching the disease in the U.S. was low because of what he called his administration’s early action, including shutting the borders to any non-U.S. citizen coming from China.
Trump said he might have to restrict travel from Italy and South Korea, both hard hit by the virus, but that now was not the right time to do so.
The president asked Congress for $2.5 billion to meet the coronavirus challenge but said he was willing to accept more if Democrats, and some Republicans, demanded it.
Trump named Vice President Mike Pence his coronavirus czar. Pence will lead a task force of federal and private health experts and said the American people could be confident that the government had their health and safety as a top priority.
Trump earlier accused what he called the "fake media” of doing all it could to make the coronavirus "look as bad as possible" despite what he said were his efforts to contain the disease from tearing through the U.S.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said his office received the first test shipment of a coronavirus vaccine this week. But Fauci said it could be a year and a half before such a vaccine would be ready for widespread use if tests were successful.