Feb 27, 2020 - Health

WHO official leads criticism of Trump's coronavirus response

President Donald Trump speaks with members of the coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 26
President Trump with members of the new coronavirus task force at the White House on Wednesday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Ezekiel Emanuel, special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, told MSNBC Wednesday he found "most" of what President Trump said at his briefing on the novel coronavirus "incoherent."

The big picture: As the number of confirmed cases reaches 60 in the U.S., the top health professional — who was a health policy adviser in the Obama administration — is among several leading figures, in particular, Democrats, to criticize the president for his response to the outbreak.

Catch up quick: At the briefing, Trump said the risk to Americans is "very low" and the U.S. is "ready" for whatever comes next, as he announced Vice President Mike Pence would lead the administration's response to the virus.

  • Trump said he's willing to accept whatever Congress deems appropriate to spend on combating the coronavirus, after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer countered the administration's $2.5 billion request with a proposal of $8.5 billion.
  • Trump also said Tuesday night's Democratic debate contributed to stock market losses, and he repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the flu, saying he was shocked to learn the flu kills 25,000–69,000 people a year in the U.S.
What they're saying:
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: "The American people need a well-coordinated, whole-of-government, fully-funded response to keep them safe from the coronavirus threat. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has mounted an opaque and chaotic response to this outbreak."
    • Pelosi criticized Trump again for leaving key health positions vacant and said Trump's budget "called for slashing almost $700 million from the Centers for Disease Control." "[T]he Administration continues to devalue Americans’ health security by ransacking funding from other vital public health needs," she added.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement he was concerned by "the inadequate and incompetent response we have seen from Donald Trump and his administration." He said it's "outrageous" that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar would not guarantee during Congressional testimony Wednesday that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to all.
  • Joe Biden told a CNN town hall, "We need to invest immediately; we should've done it from the beginning — the moment the virus appeared, but we're getting late. We've got good scientists, and I just hope the president gets on the same page as the scientists."
  • Mike Bloomberg tweeted: "Trump's slow-witted response to the coronavirus has already put American lives at risk."
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a CNN town hall that she didn't think the president's response had been sufficient.
    • "I'm going to be introducing a plan to take every dime that the president is now spending on his racist wall at our southern border and divert it to work on the coronavirus," she said.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the only Republican to vote to convict the president for abuse of power in the impeachment trial, said Tuesday, "I'm very disappointed in the degree to which we've prepared for a pandemic, both in terms of protective equipment and in terms of medical devices that would help people once they are infected," according to The Hill.

The other side: Axios has contacted the Trump administration for comment. During his briefing, Trump accused Democrats of politicizing the issue, accusing Pelosi of "trying to create panic."

Go deeper: The coronavirus is Trump's slow-burn crisis

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