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Remarks at Briefing by Members of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force

Alex M. Azar II
Press
February 7, 2020
Washington, D.C.

We want to send our sympathies to everyone in the United States, in China, and elsewhere who have been sickened by the virus or seen loved ones fall ill.
I want to emphasize how grateful we are to those responding to the outbreak in China and around the world.
As I said last week, we are working as quickly as possible on the many unanswered questions about the virus.

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us here today.

This briefing from President Trump's coronavirus task force aims to do two things: provide an update on the novel coronavirus, and provide the latest on the extensive, aggressive actions that the President has taken to keep Americans safe and respond to the outbreak.

Following my remarks, you will hear from Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the CDC; Dr. Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun [bee-gun]; Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli; and Assistant Secretary of Transportation Joel Szabat.

We're also joined by HHS's Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Dr. Robert Kadlec.

We want to send our sympathies to everyone in the United States, in China, and elsewhere who have been sickened by the virus or seen loved ones fall ill.

I want to emphasize how grateful we are to those responding to the outbreak in China and around the world.

As I said last week, we are working as quickly as possible on the many unanswered questions about the virus.

That includes exactly how rapidly it spreads, how deadly it is, whether it is commonly transmitted by patients who are not yet displaying symptoms, and other issues.

There have now been 12 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, including two cases of transmission to people who had not recently been to China.

Right now, our scientists and public health experts are trying to learn more about the virus using the data we have from China and the cases we have here. In the very near future, we hope, they will be able to work with their Chinese counterparts and other international experts on the ground in China.

Even as we endeavor to answer these important questions, our assessment of the immediate risk to the American public from this virus remains the same as last week.

Although the virus represents a potentially very serious public health threat, and we expect to continue seeing more cases here, the immediate risk to the American public at this time is low.

Now, as we've said, our top priority is keeping the risk to the American public low, and we're working on all fronts to do that. The President takes his responsibility to the health and safety of the American people extremely seriously.

The State Department, HHS, and other agencies have been working to help Americans repatriate from Wuhan if they so desire.

Here at home, state and local public health departments are working with CDC to follow the playbook for an infectious disease response: identify, diagnose, isolate, treat, contact trace.

This week, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the CDC's diagnostic test.

The CDC's test kits are now available for order from the International Reagent Resource for qualified laboratories, including U.S. state and local public health laboratories, Department of Defense laboratories, and select international laboratories—all told, 191 international laboratories.

Since last week, we've notified healthcare providers that those billing Medicare and Medicaid are expected to follow CDC guidelines for infection control related to the novel coronavirus. Our Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, has expanded its work with a pharmaceutical company around a candidate therapeutic for the coronavirus, while research on such countermeasures continues at NIH and elsewhere in the private sector.

Our longstanding offer to send world-class experts to China to assist remains on the table, and this week the State Department helped deliver 17.8 tons of relief supplies to Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, we are working on the ground in countries around the world—in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere—to assist them with detection and prevention, through CDC offices, State Department personnel, and partnerships we've built through years of preparedness work.

The FDA is actively working to accelerate the development and availability of countermeasures and to assess the risks that the outbreak could present to American medical supply chains that involve China.

Finally, we've been implementing the prudent policies that the President announced last week to reduce the risk of transmission by travelers.

We have implemented temporary quarantines of U.S. persons who have recently been to Hubei, and we have asked for voluntary, self-monitoring quarantines for U.S. persons who have recently been elsewhere in mainland China.

We have required that all other individuals who have recently been to mainland China wait 14 days, the outer limit of the incubation period of the virus, before coming to the United States.

These steps are a targeted approach aimed at slowing the virus's spread to and within the U.S., giving our government and the global community more time to take preparedness measures, understand the virus, and develop medical countermeasures.

These policies are consistent with those of many other governments; they are based on the current public health situation; and they are in line with accepted best practices and the International Health Regulations.

The travel measures complement the generous help we're offering at home and around the world, and we believe they will help slow the spread of the virus.

Every arm of the federal government that can help to protect the American people has been engaged, and we're continuing to take new steps, as Dr. Redfield will explain.

We look forward to continuing to coordinate that work through the President's Coronavirus Task Force.

I now want to hand things over to Dr. Redfield, who can provide a more in-depth update on the CDC's work.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on February 7, 2020