Coronavirus: Trump cancels visit to CDC headquarters amid outbreak fears

President ‘does not want to interfere with the CDC’s mission’, says White House

Kate Ng,John T. Bennett
Friday 06 March 2020 13:39 GMT
Trump warns coronavirus could hit US economy

Donald Trump has cancelled his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters amid coronavirus fears, according to a senior White House official.

Trump “does not want to interfere with the CDC’s mission to protect the health and welfare of their people and the agency,” the White House official said on Friday.

The president, who visited the National Institutes of Health outside Washington, DC earlier this week, had been expected to land in Atlanta around 3 p.m. (ET) and tour the CDC facility while being briefing on the agency’s work on a possible vaccine and other countermeasures.

It was not immediately clear, however, just why the president’s visit would affect the health of workers at the Atlanta facility.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the White House decided to play it safe because any presidential visit comes with a large footprint of staff and security personnel. “Better safe than sorry,” the person said Friday morning, referring to the risk of the virus entering the CDC facility inadvertently.

The cancellation comes after Mr Trump has been criticised by Democrats and some public health officials for downplaying the overall risk to Americans.

Even as his public health team has warned the number of US cases will inevitably grow and admits there are not enough testing kits deployed to meet demand, Mr Trump has referred to the deadly virus as “coronaflu” and joked about touching his face. Health experts warn too much face-touching can bring bacteria into one’s system, a possible way to contract the virus.

The US president was due to visit the CDC in Atlanta to sign a US$8 billion coronavirus funding bill to help tackle the outbreak. The legislation would provide federal public health agencies money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments, as well as help state and local governments prepare.

Mr Pence said at the time: “We are making progress. As I mentioned, federal assistance was approved by the United States Senate. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation tomorrow as he visits the CDC in Atlanta.”

The Senate passed the measure with a sweeping 96-1 vote to help address the outbreak and reassure the public that its rapid spread is under control.

Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, said: “The American people are looking for leadership and want assurance that their government is up to the task of protecting their health and safety.”

The mooted plans come after Mr Trump denied the official global death rate for coronavirus reported by health officials because he had a “hunch” it is false.

He was responding to the 3.4 percent global death rate provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday.

During an interview with Fox News‘ Sean Hannity on Thursday, the president said: “I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number.

“Now this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild, they’ll get better very rapidly.

“They don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor. You never heard about those people... Personally, I’d say the number is way under 1 percent,” he added.

Additional reporting by agencies

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