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Administration officials seek to offer consistent message amid shifting coronavirus situation

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Trump administration officials sought to offer a consistent message and quell panic Sunday as the coronavirus outbreak expanded with new confirmed cases across the country. 

Administration officials key to the White House’s response to the virus said Sunday that the U.S. is shifting into a so-called mitigation phase in response to the outbreak. 

“We’ve been saying this all along, initially we had a posture of containment so that we could give people time to prepare for where we are right now. Now we’re shifting into mitigation phase,” Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

The “mitigation” phase means “we’re helping communities understand, you’re going to see more cases, unfortunately you’re going to see more deaths, but that doesn’t mean that we should panic,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, similarly suggested Americans shouldn’t panic and said he doubts the U.S. will have to impose “draconian” shut downs as the country enters a mitigation phase. 

“We have to be realistic. I don’t think it would be as draconian as nobody in or nobody out. But if we continue to get cases like this, particularly at the community level, there will be what we call ‘mitigation,’ where we have to essentially do social distancing, keep people out of crowded places,” Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that it’s particularly important among the most vulnerable.

“You don’t want to alarm people, but given the spread we’ve seen anything is possible and that’s why we’ve got to be prepared to take whatever action is appropriate to contain and mitigate the outbreak,” Fauci added.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson said on ABC’s “This Week” that the coronavirus “is like other viruses” and “should be treated the same way.” 

“Certain precautions should be taken,” he said. “If we take those precautions, then we have much more ability to contain the spread of the disease.”

He added that the “vast majority of people” who contract the coronavirus “are going to have flu-like symptoms or less.” 

“Many of them will be asymptomatic altogether,” he said. “So, there’s a little bit of exaggeration in terms of what happens if you contract the virus.”

The appearance of administration experts across the Sunday morning shows comes amid criticism of President Trump for what some see as confusing messaging surrounding the outbreak, first downplaying the risk of the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., then offering incorrect statements on the availability of testing.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said his state does not have the ability to give a test to everybody who “wants one,” despite Trump saying Friday that tests are available to all who need them. 

Two cases have been confirmed in Connecticut, but Murphy said he imagined that his state has “hundreds if not thousands” of cases. 

“I think we have no concept of the scope of this epidemic yet because we have not been able to test,” Murphy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The fact of the matter is we can’t make good judgments about the measures we should be taking in Seattle or in Danbury or in Hartford unless we are able to do these tests.” 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), whose state has seen the largest cluster of cases and the most deaths, said there were “certainly” issues earlier with the testing protocols, but he said now federal agencies are being “very diligent” in helping Washington. 

The outbreak could also impact the ongoing presidential primary election, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned people at high risk of getting sick avoid crowds as much as possible. 

CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake tapper asked Sanders at what point rallies are no longer worth the risk. 

Sanders said his campaign is in constant contact with public health officials everywhere they go. 

“I love rallies, but your point is well taken. We will not endanger the health of anybody in this country,” he said.

He also said in the “best of all possible worlds,” maybe he would limit his own travel, as the CDC has recommended older Americans avoid travel, but said that he and his campaign is “running as hard as we can.”

Tags Ben Carson Chris Murphy Coronavirus Donald Trump Jake Tapper Jay Inslee Sunday shows

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