Trump accuses cable TV of making coronavirus look ‘as bad as possible’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump accused two cable TV channels of presenting the danger from the coronavirus in as bad a light as possible and upsetting financial markets, as public health officials warned Americans to prepare for a likely outbreak.

Trump on Wednesday wrote on Twitter that CNN and MSNBC, both of which frequently criticize him, “are doing everything possible to make (the coronavirus) look as bad as possible, including panicking markets,” adding: “USA in great shape!”

Trump, who is stepping up his re-election campaign ahead of the November presidential election, did not specify what he did not like about the coverage. He is to hold a news conference on the coronavirus at 6 p.m. ET (2300 GM) on Wednesday.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday said the virus’ global march had raised concern about its spread in the United States, even as it remained unclear when that might happen, or how severe it might be.

Global stock markets have slumped in recent days due to worries over a prolonged disruption to supply chains and economies from the disease, which has infected about 80,000 people and killed nearly 3,000, mostly in China.

Wall Street’s main indexes rose about 1% on Wednesday after suffering their worst four-day percentage fall in more than a year.

Trump has been increasingly alarmed by the drop in the stock market, which he considers a barometer of the health of the economy and sees as key to his re-election. [L3N2AQ3AH]

During his recent trip to India, Trump praised U.S. health officials while downplaying virus’ potential impact on the United States.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday said the United States has 59 coronavirus cases, including 42 American passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan. There have been just two reported cases of person-to-person transmission within the United States, both infected by people who had been to China.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases who will brief Trump, said while the virus was contained in the United States, Americans must get ready for a potential outbreak as transmissions spread outside of China.

“If we have a pandemic, then almost certainly we are going to get impacted,” Fauci told CNN.

The CDC has advised Americans to not visit China and South Korea, and on Wednesday stepped up travel warnings for Iran, Italy and Mongolia over the risks of the disease.

It is also considering expanding airport screenings to target passengers from countries that have seen recent spikes in cases such as Italy and South Korea, NBC News reported.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One after returning from a two-day trip to India, at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago

Trump is seeking $2.5 billion from Congress to boost its virus response. Democrats have warned that amount falls far short of what is needed and have also urged the White House to appoint a “czar” who could coordinate a national response.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called for $8.5 billion to prepare.

White House spokesman Judd Deere denied reports it was considering a coronavirus czar and said Trump was pleased with Azar’s leadership.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Makini Brice and Michael Erman; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot

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