Ex-Obama health adviser calls Trump comments on coronavirus response ‘incoherent’

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former health policy adviser in the Obama administration, said late Wednesday that he found President Trump’s remarks during a news conference on his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak a “little incoherent.” 

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Emanuel, now a special adviser to the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that Trump’s comments indicated how little the president knew about public health.

He also stressed that health officials still do not know vital information about the virus, which first appeared in China and has since infected more than 80,000 people in more than three dozen countries. The U.S. has reported 60 confirmed cases of the virus. 

“I found most of what he said a little incoherent,” Emanuel said, pointing to Trump’s admission that he was shocked by the number of people who die from the common flu annually. 

“You know, [Trump’s] a guy that admitted that he’s surprised that 25,000 to 69,000 people each year die of the flu. That just tells you how little he actually knows about public health and about the health of the American public,” he added. “He just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation. We don’t know how similar or dissimilar this is to the flu.

“We know one thing. It is actually more communicable than the flu. It passes between people very, very easily.”

The comments came just moments after Trump announced that Vice President Pence would lead the administration’s coronavirus response as he sought to bolster U.S. confidence in the White House’s handling of the disease. The news conference on Wednesday night came amid warnings that an outbreak in the U.S. was “inevitable” and as lawmakers dubbed Trump’s emergency funding request insufficient. 

Trump said that the U.S. is “ready to adapt” if the disease spread, emphasizing, “We’re very, very ready for this.” But he also continued to contradict officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying that he did not think the virus’s spread was “inevitable.”

The line echoed talking points he and other administration officials have made throughout the week as they attempt to assuage concerns about potential economic damage. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow claimed on Tuesday that the virus was “contained,” just hours after a top CDC official said the disease could disrupt life in a severe way. 

The CDC’s Anne Schuchat said at Wednesday’s press conference that the “trajectory” for the coronavirus in the U.S. remains “very uncertain,” adding that now was the time for businesses and schools to look into “pandemic preparedness plans.”

The Trump administration earlier this week requested $2.5 billion in emergency funding from Congress for its coronavirus response. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has countered that with a call for $8.5 billion in emergency funding. 

The WHO announced Wednesday that more new cases were being reported outside of China than in it, the first time that has happened since the outbreak began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. 

Updated at 8:33 a.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Larry Kudlow

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