Trump Names VP Mike Pence To Coordinate U.S. Government Response To Coronavirus; Trump Downplays Risk As CDC Officials Call On Public To Prepare For Cases

AP: Trump urges calm even as U.S. reports worrisome new virus case
“President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that a widespread U.S. outbreak of the new respiratory virus sweeping the globe isn’t inevitable even as top health authorities at his side warned Americans that more infections are coming. Shortly after Trump spoke, the government announced a worrisome development: Another person in the U.S. is infected — someone in California who doesn’t appear to have the usual risk factors of having traveled abroad or being exposed to another patient…” (Neergaard et al., 2/27).

New York Times: Trump Names Mike Pence to Lead Coronavirus Response
“President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak. The president’s announcement, at a White House news conference, followed mounting bipartisan criticism that the administration’s response had been sluggish and came after two days of contradictory messages about the virus, which has infected more than 81,000 people globally, killing nearly 3,000…” (Shear et al., 2/26).

POLITICO: Trump’s coronavirus conflict: Science vs. politics
“The coronavirus battle brewing inside the Trump administration is putting two urgent imperatives in conflict — showing credibility in tackling a global health crisis while calming unsettled investors and voters in an election year. On Monday, one top White House official publicly disputed concerns about a market downturn while President Donald Trump commented directly on it. On Tuesday, health officials broadcast their expertise about the virus while Trump sought to quash such chatter. And on Wednesday, top aides debated publicly whether the administration would need a czar to coordinate a government response as the president announced a rare evening news conference and attacked the media…” (McGraw et al., 2/26).

POLITICO: Trump’s CDC chief faces increasingly harsh scrutiny
“…[C]onfronted by the increasingly global coronavirus outbreak, CDC and [Director Robert] Redfield’s actions are now under intense scrutiny — both inside and outside the administration. … POLITICO spoke with 10 current and former Trump administration officials, as well as two people close to the administration, who portrayed a leader facing the biggest management challenge of his four-decade career in public health. Several individuals also said that the 68-year-old Redfield — who’s working to fend off a virus that the World Health Organization has deemed high risk and that top Trump advisers believe could threaten the president’s reelection — has been relying heavily on his top civil servant deputies as the agency collectively braces for a potential pandemic…” (Diamond, 2/26).

STAT: Trump’s no stranger to misinformation. But with the coronavirus, experts say that’s dangerous
“Mixed messages and misinformation aren’t out of the ordinary in the Trump administration. But at a time when the U.S. faces a looming threat from a novel virus, public health experts warn that the administration’s mixed messages aren’t just confusing — they’re dangerous…” (Thielking, 2/26).

Washington Post: Trump downplays risk, places Pence in charge of coronavirus outbreak response
“…Trump has made a direct connection between the virus and his political fortunes, accusing Democrats and the media of trying to harm his reelection chances by focusing on the outbreak. Trump took to Twitter early Wednesday to accuse cable news channels of ‘doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible.’ The president’s efforts to downplay the virus have focused on the fact that the United States has seen relatively few cases and, so far, no confirmed deaths. Trump has also contended that the virus was ‘very much under control’ and has indicated it would be gone by April. Multiple public health officials from the administration have contradicted that prediction. Asked if he agreed that the coronavirus would be gone by April, CDC Director Robert Redfield told Congress he didn’t…” (Olorunnipa et al., 2/26).

Additional coverage of the president’s press conference and whole-of-government response is available from CNN, The Hill (2), POLITICO (2), Reuters, STAT, and Washington Post.