On Wednesday, Feb. 26, President Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the government’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The decision to have Pence lead the response to the coronavirus comes as a counter to criticism that the government’s response to the virus has been slow. Prior to the announcement, budget cuts by President Trump at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have made their way into the conversation, despite the notion that the coronavirus is seen as a growing threat.
According to an article for the New York Times, the coronavirus is “a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses, from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.”
The first traces of coronavirus were detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and according to the CDC, it has now spread to 50 locations internationally. The illness’ severity has been described as a range between moderate to severe, and is determined on a case-by-case basis. While the coronavirus was detected in citizens traveling back to the U.S., on Feb. 25 the CDC confirmed the transmission of the virus to a person who had no travel history or exposure. Currently, the number of people affected globally by the coronavirus is 81,000, with the death toll at 3,100.
In the face of a health crisis, Trump recently proposed major budget cuts to the CDC. In the most recent budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed a $3 billion cut to global health programs.
In an article for the New York Times, “the president’s budget request this month for the fiscal year that begins in October would cut the CDC’s budget by almost 16 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services’s by almost 10 percent. The proposal’s $3 billion in cuts to global health programs included a 53 percent cut to the World Health Organization and a 75 percent cut to the Pan American Health Organization.”
“We’ll spend whatever is appropriate. Hopefully, we won’t have to spend so much because we really think that we’ve done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum,” Trump said in an article for CNN.
On Feb. 26, the Trump administration held a news conference in order to address the coronavirus and to reassure the public that the administration has the issue under control.
“We’re very, very ready for this, for anything, whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not, we’re, you know, we’re at that very low level,” President Trump said.
During this conference, Trump publicly stated that he had assigned Vice President Mike Pence to lead the response to the coronavirus.
“Mike will be working with the professionals, doctors and everybody else that is working. The team is brilliant. I spent a lot of time with the team the last couple weeks,” Trump said, “but they are brilliant and we’re doing really well and Mike is going to be in charge and Mike will report back to me. But he has a certain talent for this.”
According to the CNN article, the White House was not going to appoint a representative to oversee the administration’s response. However, due to the public’s acknowledgment of the lack of response towards the coronavirus, President Trump blames media coverage for portraying an “alarmist” perspective of the situation.
While it is difficult to determine the rate of growth for the coronavirus currently, the awareness of the public continues to grow. As the public continues to grow concerned for their health in the face of the pandemic, the Trump administration appears to be collected.
“We’re testing everybody that we need to test,” President Trump said during the conference, “and we’re finding very little problem, very little problem.”