Trump to talk coronavirus in White House briefing room visit

President Trump will take to the White House briefing room podium Wednesday evening to discuss the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

It will only be Trump’s second appearance in the press briefing room and it comes as he has called out news outlets, accusing the media of “panicking markets” by making the virus “look as bad as possible.”

Trump will be joined in the briefing room by Vice President Mike Pence and his Coronavirus Task Force, led by Alex Azar, his secretary of Health and Human Services.

The open-press briefing is rare for Trump, who prefers grander venues for addresses such as the stately White House East Room and Rose Garden. The choice of the briefing room suggests, but does not guarantee, he will take questions.

Reporters and cameramen scrambled to clean up the largely disused room late Wednesday afternoon. The room largely has been used for equipment storage since Trump ordered his spokespeople last year to cease often contentious daily press briefings.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 2,000 points in total, as outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran suggested the virus may spread out of control after efforts to contain it in Hubei province, China.

The stock market closed down but somewhat stabilized on Wednesday, after Trump complained on Twitter that panic was unjustified.

Trump wrote in a tweet: “Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!”

More than 81,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed as of Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization, more than 78,000 of them in China. But the latest daily figures show the number of new cases outside China — 459 — exceeded new diagnoses in China.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 cases have been confirmed in the US. Twelve of those cases are travel-related, according to the CDC. An additional 45 Americans were diagnosed after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, and the infested Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Japan.

Trump’s first briefing room appearance occurred on Jan. 3, 2019. It was not announced in advance to reporters, who instead were given a 5-minute warning that then-Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would give a briefing.

The president, flanked by Border Patrol leaders in his inaugural visit, looked around in surprise at the half-empty room, where many of the 49 seats went unclaimed. He took no questions during that visit, which was widely interpreted as a counter-programming move on the day Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as House speaker.

There’s unlikely to be any empty seats at the virus briefing. Reporters poured into the briefing room Wednesday shortly after the event was announced.




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