CDC chief says it's wrong to call COVID-19 a 'Chinese virus'

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said Tuesday that it was wrong to refer to the novel coronavirus as a "Chinese coronavirus," breaking with a slew of GOP lawmakers who have attached the label to the deadly disease. 

Redfield made the comments during a congressional hearing after being asked about the use of the term by Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelCDC chief says it's wrong to call COVID-19 a 'Chinese virus' House lawmakers introduce legislation to promote women's global empowerment Afghan Women: Essential for Peace MORE (D-Fla.). 

"I’m sure you would agree with this. You said this virus is expansive in Italy, in South Korea, and now the United States. It’s absolutely wrong and inappropriate to call this the Chinese coronavirus?" Frankel asked. "I assume you would agree with that."

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Redfield replied "yes," noting that the first phase of the coronavirus outbreak was in China but that it has since severely impacted countries such as South Korea, Italy and China. 

Several GOP lawmakers have recently referred to the disease as the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” while addressing its outbreak domestically and abroad. Wuhan is the central Chinese city where the virus first appeared in December. The virus has since spread to more than 50 countries and infected more than 118,000 people, with the highest number of cases being reported in China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

The U.S. had confirmed 959 cases of the virus as of Tuesday evening, according to a John's Hopkins University database. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE on Tuesday shared a tweet from a conservative activist saying that the "China virus" was reason for the U.S. to build a wall along the southern border. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySenators, bipartisan state officials press Congress for more election funds Pelosi defends push for mail-in voting: GOP 'afraid' to let people vote McCarthy slams Democrats on funding for mail-in balloting MORE (Calif.) and Sen. Rick Scott (D-Fla.) have also referenced the "Chinese coronavirus" in statements providing information about the disease's impact. 

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Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Conservative lawmakers tell Trump to 'back off' attacks on GOP colleague Lawmakers highlight flights back to DC for huge coronavirus vote MORE (R-Ariz.) referred to the disease as the "Wuhan virus" while announcing that he would go under self-quarantine after interacting with someone who later tested positive for it. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate deadlocked on relief measures The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump as Sanders exits race GOP rep calls for US to bring international case against China over coronavirus MORE has used the label as well. 

Several Democratic lawmakers have slammed the use of the term as racist and xenophobic considering the virus's global spread. Gosar dismissed the backlash earlier this week, calling it "astoundingly ignorant" and claiming that “major media” had also described the virus that way. 

The Hill published two stories in January that labeled the disease as the "Chinese virus" in the headline, although the term was used before the virus's outbreak spread. The Asian American Journalists Association noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has discouraged applying geographic locations to the names of illnesses because it could "stigmatize" people living there. 

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the vice chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement that she was "shocked and dismayed that the GOP Leader in the House of Representatives" would use the term "Chinese coronavirus."

“This labeling of the illness is embarrassing, disrespectful, offensive, and downright disgusting. It is shameful," she said. "Wrongly inserting ‘Chinese’ into the name of this disease only reinforces the disparaging and negative stereotypes of Asian Americans.”

Meng and the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Native American Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus have also called for McCarthy and Gosar to apologize.