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There are “ongoing” conversations at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about expanding airport health screenings for the novel coronavirus given the rapid spread of the infection in Italy, South Korea and Japan, according to an agency spokesperson.
Currently, the United States is doing health screenings only for passengers who are flying in from China.
At the time that the CDC made the decision to start those screenings, there were far fewer cases of the coronavirus in China as there are currently in Japan, Italy or South Korea.
When the screening started on January 17, there were 45 cases of the new coronavirus in China. Japan currently has about three times that number of cases, Italy has about 10 times as many and South Korea has more than 25 times as many.
“We’re not changing our posture at the moment [but] every day we re-evaluate what we’re doing and making sure that we’re adjusting what we’re doing to make sure we’re hitting the right notes,” the CDC spokesperson said.
Asked if he was worried about the spread of novel coronavirus in the United States, President Trump said, “No, because we’re ready for it."
“It is what it is. We’re ready for it. We’re really prepared," the President continued. "We have, as I said, we have the greatest people in the world. We’re very ready for it. We hope it doesn’t spread. There’s a chance that it won’t spread, too. And there’s a chance that it will. It’s just a question of at what level. So far, we’ve done a great job. When you have 15 people — with this whole world coming into the United States — and the 15 people are either better or close to being better, that’s pretty good.”
There are now 60 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current total breaks down to 42 passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, three people repatriated from China and 15 US cases.
President Trump urged Americans to take the same precautions for coronavirus that they would during a normal flu season.
"Wash your hands, stay clean. You don't have to necessarily grab every handrail, unless you have to," Trump said.
Trump added that he tries to "bail out as much as possible" when he's around anyone showing cold or flu symptoms.
"Treat this like you treat the flu," he said.
The US has ordered "a lot" of masks to deal with a potential coronavirus outbreak, President Trump said.
"We may not need it, you understand that," he told a reporter. "We're looking at worst-case scenario, we're going to be set very quickly."
Trump insisted he didn't think the US would end up needing the masks because flights and "borders are very controlled."
President Trump was just asked if he's considering imposing travel restrictions to and from more countries with coronavirus outbreaks, such as Italy and South Korea.
"Right now it's not the right time," Trump responded.
He added that eventually there could be a "right time."
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said coronavirus poses a low risk to the American public.
“The immediate risk to the American public is and continues to be low,” Azar said at a White House press briefing.
“Our containment strategy has been working. At the same time, what every one of our experts and leaders have been saying for more than a month now remains true. The degree of risk has the potential to chance quickly, and we can expect to see more cases in the United States.”
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director for the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said the US should expect to see more cases of coronavirus.
"Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working, and it is responsible for the low levels of cases that we have so far. However, we do expect more cases. And this is a good time to prepare," she said.
Schuchat urged Americans to prepare for the virus as well as schools and businesses.
"Tt's the perfect time for businesses, health care systems, universities, and schools to look at their pandemic preparedness plans, dust them off, and make sure that they're ready," she said.
She said the future is uncertain, but assured the public that steps have been taken to prepare for such outbreaks.
"So, this — the trajectory of what we're looking at over the weeks and months ahead is very uncertain. But many of the steps that we have taken over the past 15 years to prepare for pandemic influenza and our experience going through the 2009 H1N1 pandemic of influenza remind us of the kinds of steps our health care system, our businesses, our communities and schools may need to take," Schuchat said.
President Trump said the Americans who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus are doing “very well.”
Trump said he had just been briefed by members of his administration.
“Of the 15 people … eight of them have returned to their homes, to stay at their homes until they’re fully recovered. One is in the hospital. And five have fully recovered. And one we think is in pretty good shape,” Trump said at the White House.
“In almost all cases, they’re getting better," Trump said.
He added that there are also patients who were brought back to the US from Japan.
"We took in some from Japan … because they’re American citizens. They’re in quarantine and they’re getting better, too,” Trump said, adding that they were repatriated because “we felt that we had an obligation to do that.”
“We could have left them and that would have been very bad, very bad,” he said.