In a press conference Saturday, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will ban travel to Iran and parts of South Korea and Italy to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
On the day when the first confirmed American fatality from the illness was announced, Trump said 22 people in the U.S. now have the virus and that cases are “likely.”
“Unfortunately, one person passed away overnight. She was a wonderful woman, a medically high-risk patient in her late 50s,” Trump told reporters in the White House briefing room. “Additional cases in the United States are likely but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover. If you’re healthy, you will probably go through a process and you’ll be fine.”
But Trump told Americans, “there’s no reason to panic at all, as he also asked that the news media and politicians “not do anything to incite the panic.”
“There is no reason to panic at all,” Trump said. “Our country is prepared for any circumstance.”
Trump said he wasn’t altering his own routine, noting that the risk is small. “You’re talking about 22 people right now in this whole very vast country. I think we’ll be in very good shape.”
“Healthy individuals should be able to fully recover, and we think that will be a statement that we can make with great surety now that we’ve gotten familiar with this problem. They should be able to recover should they contract the virus. So healthy people, if you’re healthy, you will probably go through a process and you’ll be fine,” Trump added.
Vice President Mike Pence, who has been tapped by Trump to oversee the federal government’s response to the virus, told Americans that there is no need for them to wear masks.
In addition, Pence said Trump has authorized a ban on foreign nationals who have traveled to Iran within the last 14 days from coming to the U.S. Pence also said the State Department has increased the travel advisory to the highest level for several regions of South Korea and Italy, warning Americans not to travel there at all. He also said he was considering a clamp down on the souther border.
“We are going to increase, to the highest level advisory — which is Level 4 — advising Americans: Do not travel to specific regions in Italy and South Korea,” he said. “We are urging Americans to not travel to the areas in Italy and the areas in South Korea that are most affected by the coronavirus.” In Italy, confirmed cases totaled 1,100 on Saturday.
Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services who also attended the conference, said, “We want to lower the amount of travel to and from the most impacted areas. This is a basic containment strategy.”
Trump declared that his early action helped reduce the threat to Americans. “We moved very early. That was one of the decisions we made that really turned out to be a lifesaver, in a sense. A big lifesaver,” Trump said. “I want to say that China seems to be making tremendous progress. Their numbers are way down … If you read, Tim Cook of Apple said that they’re now in full operation again in China.”
Trump’s coronavirus task force met Saturday in the White House Situation Room for several hours, discussing a range of options to containing the spread of the virus in the U.S.