California's governor reported more than 8,400 people in the state are under medical monitoring after a potential mass exposure to a deadly coronavirus has forced health officials into action, as Donald Trump continued to downplay the threat of the virus while US markets plummeted to historic lows.
Meanwhile, a recently revealed whistleblower report claims that US health officials sent crews to evacuate Americans from China without any protective gear or training as they entered the outbreak's epicentre in Wuhan.
The Dow Jones made its largest one-day point decline in history, surpassing Monday's 1,031-point drop, despite the president's attempts to calm market fears that the US was working to contain the outbreak.
Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed more than 60 cases in the US and said more were expected to come in the following weeks.
But the president's appointment of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration's response has rattled officials, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling reporters at her weekly briefing that she discussed her concerns with his role.
Meanwhile, Mr Pence told his allies that "we're ready for anything" while the White House takes control of all coronavirus-related messaging and statements, silencing health officials in the administration and across the federal response.
He also tapped National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow - who falsely claimed just two days ago that the virus outbreak has been "contained" - to the government's coronavirus task force.
Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, said the coronavirus “could throw the United States into a recession” if it substantially hits the country. Confirmed cases of the virus have increased in recent days across the globe, with fears of a potential pandemic only continuing to grow.
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Welcome to The Independent's live coverage of the US response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Donald Trump has told Americans the risk remains "very low" as he placed his vice president, Mike Pence, in charge of the US response to the disease.
At a White House briefing with his coronavirus task force, the US president defended his administration's response to the crisis and said public health officials were "ready, willing and able" to move quickly if the virus spreads.
Outrage over Pence's appointment as head of US response as vice president blamed for worsening Aids outbreak
Donald Trump's decision to name his vice president, Mike Pence, as head of the US response to the coronavirus, has been criticised by the Democratic National Committee, who blamed Mr Pence for aggravating a severe Aids outbreak among intravenous drug users while he was governor of Indiana.
Trump gives White House briefing with coronavirus task force
Donald Trump holds news conference on the coronavirus outbreak at the White House (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)
Speaking at a White House briefing with his coronavirus task force, Mr Trump said he would accept whatever emergency spending Congress decided was appropriate for the crisis.
The US president said he was not ready to institute new travel restrictions for countries dealing with outbreaks, such as South Korea and Italy, although he could not rule it out.
"The risk to the American people remains very low," Mr Trump said, flanked by Mr Pence and public health officials.
"We're ready to adapt and we're ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads," he said, adding the spread of the virus in the US was not "inevitable."
"It probably will, it possibly will. It could be at a very small level, or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens we're totally prepared," he said.
US health officials warn Americans to prepare for more cases
Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, has said while the virus was contained in the US, Americans must prepare for a potential outbreak as transmissions spread outside of China.
"If we have a pandemic, then almost certainly we are going to get impacted," Mr Fauci told CNN.
The US health and human services secretary Alex Azar said the US has 59 coronavirus cases, including 42 American passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.
US stock markets tumble for fifth consecutive day
US stocks turned lower in afternoon trading on Wednesday in a fresh wave of selling sparked by fears of the coronavirus spreading in the US.
The S&P 500 index fell for a fifth straight day and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 123.77 points, or 0.46 per cent.
Global stock markets have slumped in recent days due to worries over a prolonged disruption to supply chains and economies from the virus, which has infected about 80,000 people and killed nearly 3,000, mostly in China.
Trump blames Democrats for drop in US stock markets
Mr Trump, who is running for a second term in the November election, has been increasingly alarmed by the drop in US stock markets, which he considers a barometer of the health of the American economy and sees as important to his re-election.
He told reporters at the White House that fears of the coronavirus had hurt the stock markets, but he also blamed the Democratic presidential candidates for spooking investors.
"I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves," Mr Trump said in a reference to debates that are part of the process toward nominating a Democrat to run against Republican president.
The former chair of the Federal Reserve has warned the deadly coronavirus “could throw the United States into a recession” as health officials with the CDC said the outbreak reaching the US was effectively inevitable.
Janet Yellen, who served as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, reportedly said the epidemic would have to reach sizable proportions within the country for such an economic impact to occur.
“It's just conceivable that it could throw the United States into a recession," she said. “If it doesn't hit in a substantial way in the United States, that's less likely.”
Ms Yellen added: “We had a pretty solid outlook before this happened — and there is some risk, but basically I think the US outlook looks pretty good."
Still, the former chair said she “would bet” a recession doesn’t occur “in the coming year”.
Meanwhile, coronavirus is causing ‘ghost towns’ in impacted countries like Italy
Julia Buckley visited Italy, where 400 infections and 12 deaths have sent many residents into self-isolation, to report on what it’s like when a picturesque place like northern Italy goes into quarantine.
Backlash is continuing to grow over Donald Trump's decision to appoint his vice president as the person in charge of overseeing the administration's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Many critics have noted how new cases of HIV exploded in Indiana under Mike Pence during his tenure as governor:
Saudi Arabia has banned all religious pilgrims and foreigners from coronavirus-hit countries from entering the country over outbreak fears.
The country’s decision comes just months before the annual hajj pilgrimage and after 220 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 illness have been recorded in the Middle East.
The move stops tourists and pilgrims from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day.
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