Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

Trump seems atypically calm about the coronavirus epidemic. Aides say he doesn't want to anger China.

In 2014, when the U.S. was grappling with a global Ebola outbreak, Donald Trump had a message: "STOP THE FLIGHTS! NO VISAS FROM EBOLA STRICKEN COUNTRIES." Now that he's president and a Chinese coronavirus has spread to the U.S. and 14 other countries, his message is closer to Keep Calm and Carry On. "We have the best experts anywhere in the world, and they are on top of it 24/7!" Trump tweeted Wednesday evening.

"A self-described germaphobe, Trump has had little to say in public about the new virus that so far has killed more than 170 people in China, sickened thousands more there, and led to a handful of confirmed cases in the U.S," The Associated Press reports. "Aides and confidants say Trump's careful approach is part of a political strategy crafted to avoid upsetting the stock market or angering China by calling too much attention to the virus or blaming Beijing for not managing the situation better."

China has 7,711 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, now in every region of China's mainland. More than 200 Americans will spend the next 72 hours in quarantine in California after being evacuated Wednesday from Wuhan, the center of the outbreak. "In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us," World Heath Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

The White House quietly announced late Wednesday that a 12-person task force headed by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and coordinated through the National Security Council will lead the U.S. response to the coronavirus.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown, tells AP he's glad Trump isn't "fanning the flames" as he did with Ebola, but said Trump's wrong that China has this under control. Still, he said, "as long as there isn't political interference or mass quarantines in the U.S. or outright travel bans, I will feel comfortable with how the White House is handling it."