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Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump announced at a press briefing Wednesday evening that he'll be putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of leading the administration's response to the coronavirus.

The big picture: In the wake of a market sell-off and warnings from health officials that there's a real threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., Trump sought to reassure the nation and Wall Street that the U.S. is "ready" for whatever comes next.

  • The previous point person on the administration's coronavirus response was Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Details: At Wednesday's press briefing, Trump said that he's willing to accept however much Congress deems appropriate to spend on combatting the coronavirus. The administration had asked for $2.5 billion, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer countered with a proposal of $8.5 billion.

  • Trump continued to downplay concerns when pressed by reporters, contradicting an assessment from a CDC official that the spread of the virus is inevitable: "It's gonna be very well under control. Now, it may get bigger. It may get a little bigger. It may not get bigger at all."
  • Asked about the market sell-off, Trump said that he thinks stocks will recover and suggested that the Democratic debate on Tuesday night contributed to losses.
  • He also repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the flu, saying he was shocked to learn of its mortality rate: "The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me."

Between the lines: As Axios' Justin Green notes, the coronavirus response is exactly the situation where a president needs the credibility to truthfully explain a tough situation to the public.

Back in the Ebola crisis of 2014, Trump did the opposite:

  • Aug. 2014: "The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!"
  • Oct. 2014: "Ebola is much easier to transmit than the CDC and government representatives are admitting. Spreading all over Africa-and fast. Stop flights."

He also criticized former President Obama for appointing an Ebola czar "with zero experience in the medical area and zero experience in infectious disease control."

What they're saying: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Wednesday again criticizing the administration for leaving "critical positions" vacant, specifically those in charge of managing pandemics at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security. 

  • "The Trump Budget called for slashing almost $700 million from the Centers for Disease Control," she added. "And even now, the Administration continues to devalue Americans’ health security by ransacking funding from other vital public health needs."

This article has been updated with more details, including comment from Pelosi.

Go deeper

CNN suspends Chris Cuomo indefinitely

Chris Cuomo in 2019. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for THR

CNN announced Tuesday evening that it has suspended anchor Chris Cuomo indefinitely following new revelations about his involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Driving the news: New documents released Monday showed that Cuomo used his contacts to garner information about the women accusing his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of sexual harassment, as well as of emerging media coverage relating to the scandal.

2 hours ago - Health

FDA panel backs Merck's antiviral COVID pill

The Merck Cherokee Plant in Riverside, Pa. Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An FDA advisory panel on Tuesday voted 13-10 to endorse an antiviral pill developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to treat adults at high risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, despite concerns over its effectiveness and safety.

Why it matters: Oral antiviral drugs designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be key pandemic-fighting tools, if proven effective, especially as new variants emerge. If authorized, the Merck drug, known as molnupiravir, would be the first treatment of its kind to be made available in the United States.

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 6 wounded

Screengrab: CBSN

Three people dead and six others are wounded after a shooting at a high school in Michigan according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

Driving the news: The alleged shooter was a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School and has been arrested, per police.