Trump Facing Growing Coronavirus Crisis Amid Market Jitters and Administration Chaos
President Donald Trump vowed to take on coronavirus Wednesday even as a plunging stock market and chaos within his own administration laid bare a potential major global crisis that could threaten his reelection battle.
Returning from a trip to India, Trump scheduled a news conference for Wednesday evening after mixed messages and outright misstatements made by federal agencies about the fast-spreading and unpredictable virus.
Still, he sought to project unlikely confidence in officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, his putative point man on the crisis.
“All doing a great job with respect to Coronavirus!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Azar was heading back to Capitol Hill where both Democrats and Republicans were demanding a much more forceful response to the crisis.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed $8.5 billion in new funding to prepare for a possible outbreak on American soil, which health officials have warned is all but inevitable. That is way more than the approximately $1.5 billion Trump proposed.
Even as he sought to project confidence, Trump is said to be deeply concerned about the virus and especially its potential impact on the economy.
After the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 2,000 points, it bounced back a bit in early trading Wednesday.
Trump is hoping to ride the strong economy to a reelection victory in November despite his historic unpopularity. So any sign that the virus could plunge the world into recession is setting off alarm bells at the White House.
So far, the Trump administration has stumbled badly, with acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf drawing blanks on basic questions like how many masks or respirators would be needed if and when the hopscotching virus makes landfall in the U.S.
Economic czar Larry Kudlow also sounded out of touch when he pooh-poohed the economic impact of the virus Thursday, even as Wall Street plunged further.
Trump himself has claimed the virus would probably die out in the spring and suggested a vaccine could be ready soon.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease chief, said a vaccine is at least a year away.
He said that while only a few cases have turned up in the U.S. from travelers outside the country, a pandemic would affect every country. A pandemic involves the continual spread of sustained transmission from person to person in multiple regions and hemispheres throughout the world simultaneously, Fauci noted.
As for a possible vaccine, Fauci said the U.S. is one to two months from a Phase One trial to determine safety.
“But that doesn’t mean you have a vaccine,” Fauci cautioned.
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