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Trump Administration Pressed On Coronavirus Preparedness

President Trump, pictured in New Delhi on Tuesday, will hold a news conference on Wednesday to discuss the threat of coronavirus.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
President Trump, pictured in New Delhi on Tuesday, will hold a news conference on Wednesday to discuss the threat of coronavirus.

President Trump will hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon about the rapidly spreading coronavirus, as fears have sent the stock market into a spiral and Republican and Democratic leaders have questioned the administration's response.

Trump announced the event in a tweet and said it was a retort to media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC trying to "make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible."

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have voiced dissatisfaction with the administration's response.

"The American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus, and I'm not getting them from you," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf at a hearing Tuesday.

The Trump administration made an emergency request to Congress earlier this week for funding related to the outbreak: $1.25 billion of new funding, and an additional $1.25 billion of money that would be moved from previously allocated budget items, such as Ebola response.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., immediately called the request inadequate.

"The administration has no plan to deal with the coronavirus," Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "No plan, and seemingly no urgency to develop one."

His office released a proposal Wednesday for $8.5 billion in emergency funding to combat the disease

The administration's response also came up in Tuesday night's Democratic presidential primary debate. Several candidates complained that Trump has tried to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is managing the response to the outbreak.

For now, however, the White House is standing by its funding request, which it says would help accelerate a vaccine, support preparedness and response, and buy equipment and supplies.

The coronavirus disease COVID-19 expanded this week to the point where for the first time, more new cases were reported outside of China than in China, the head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

Federal health officials warned Tuesday that Americans need to start preparing for the possibility that more aggressive, disruptive measures may be needed to stop the spread of the disease.

It has become more likely that outbreaks could occur within the U.S., as there have been dozens of new cases reported in South Korea, Italy and Iran, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but more really a question of when it will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Messonnier said.

Trump, and members of his administration, have tried to quell the panic, specifically to try to end the stock market's slide, according to a report from The Washington Post. The S&P 500 has fallen more than 6% in two days.

That's led to public comments that seem almost at odds with the worrying reports coming from the CDC and other global health organizations.

"We have contained this," Larry Kudlow, the White House National Economic Council director, said on CNBC Tuesday. "I won't say airtight, but pretty close to airtight."

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Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.