Trump accuses media of overstating coronavirus threat

A worker disinfects subway trains against coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, in the early morning of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP photo via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Ahead of a Wednesday night press conference on the coronavirus, President Donald Trump claimed emerging fears about the spread of the disease have been driven by overblown news reports.

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning announcing the conference, Trump accused Democrats and news outlets of making “the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible” and “panicking markets.”

The president said representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be in attendance at the 6 p.m. briefing.

“CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus, including the very early closing of our borders to certain areas of the world. It was opposed by the Dems, ‘too soon’, but turned out to be the correct decision,” Trump tweeted.

So far, the U.S. has reported 36 people infected with the coronavirus, most of whom came from a cruise ship docked in Japan.

But health officials warned Tuesday the United States should brace for a widespread outbreak.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a media briefing. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

If the virus spreads, she said, people should prepare for closed schools, cancellation of large events and “disruption to everyday life.”

The same day, during the president’s trip in India, Trump insisted the virus is “under control,” mostly due to China’s containment of the outbreak.

The coronavirus, recently named the COVID-19 virus, has spread from the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, China to 30 countries. The virus has so far killed 2,700 people.

The quick spread of the coronavirus in countries like South Korea and Italy spooked markets this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2,000 points over the last two days.

The Trump administration wants Congress to support $2.5 billion in vaccine preparation and medical supplies. Democratic leaders are also readying a bill to fund preparedness.

During Tuesday night’s debate in South Carolina, Democratic contenders for the White House attacked Trump for budget cuts to the CDC.

“The president fired the pandemic specialist in this country two years ago,” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “There’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing. And he’s defunded the CDC.”

In 2018, the Trump administration made massive cuts to the CDC’s efforts to prevent disease outbreaks in other countries. Over the last two fiscal years, the administration has asked for cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC.

In the most recent budget for 2021, the White House proposed a 16% cut to the CDC, according to the Washington Post. The budget also called for a 40% cut in U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization.