US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (L), along with members of the coronavirus take force meet with…
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, left, along with members of the coronavirus take force meet with pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, March 2, 2020.

WHITE HOUSE - As the reported number of coronavirus cases and fatalities on Monday increased in the United States, President Donald Trump said there is no immediate need to declare a national emergency.

"I don't think you'll need that, because I really think we're in extremely good shape," the president said. "We're prepared for anything. And we can always do that at a later date if we need it."

There have been media reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing for such a presidential declaration that would allow FEMA to get more funding and personnel to respond to the anticipated impact from the virus.

The president attempted to put the coronavirus outbreak in perspective, noting that there are between 25,000 and 70,000 influenza diagnoses in the United States every year.

"Here we're talking about a much smaller range," Trump said. "Hopefully, it stays that way."

There are about 100 known cases of the coronavirus in the United States.

WATCH: Virus outbreak in US

All six U.S. fatalities from the COVID-19 virus are in the northwestern state of Washington, where officials say the disease had been spreading undetected for about six weeks.

Vaccine companies

Trump and members of his coronavirus task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, met on Monday with top executives from 10 of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.

The executives discussed production of what would be hundreds of millions of vaccine doses annually.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, accompanied by members of the coronavirus task force, meet with pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 2, 2020.

It is a "great challenge," said the president, "but everyone's responded very well."

The companies will combat the disease as a consortium, according to Pence.

GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive Emma Walmsley said her company is prepared to cooperate with others on a response to the virus.

Pfizer's president and chief scientific officer, Mikael Dolsten, says compounds have been identified by his company that have a high probability to be effective against COVID-19.   

Inovio Pharmaceuticals CEO Joseph Kim said that "by end of this year" his company "could deliver one million doses" of a coronavirus vaccine.

While Trump said that he is hearing a vaccine could be ready in several months, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned that it would not be ready to "deploy" for at least a year.

"Vaccines have to be tested. There's the potential for vaccines to make diseases worse," cautioned Leonard Schleifer, chief executive officer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

"Perhaps the government has to commit to purchasing a certain number of doses in advance before it becomes financially reasonable for a company to proceed and set up a manufacturing process," William Scheffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told VOA.

Trump said the pharmaceutical companies do not need federal money for vaccine development, but what they need is time.

"Some of them are so rich they can actually loan money to the federal government," he joked.

'Uncharted territory'

At a White House briefing for reporters led by Pence later in the day, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar cautioned that "the degree of risk has the potential to change quickly."

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar talks with reporters about the coronavirus, at the White House, Feb. 28, 2020.

Azar added that Americans should "prepare for the worst, hope for the best."

Earlier Monday, the director-general of the World Health Organization warned of the planet being in "uncharted territory" because it had never seen a "respiratory pathogen capable of community transmission."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did express a note of optimism, saying, "We can still push this virus back" with the right measures.

Global COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 3,000. Most of the fatalities are in China, but there are now far more new infections outside China than on the Chinese mainland.

World stock markets Monday recovered some of their losses from deep drops last week that sent key indexes to their lowest levels since the 2008 financial crisis.

After Australia's central bank moved Tuesday to cut its benchmark interest rate in order to help deal with the economic impact of the virus, Trump issued a series of early morning tweets with his latest criticism of the U.S. Federal Reserve and a call for it to "ease and cut rate big."

VOA's Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.
 

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