As cases of the global coronavirus outbreak inch toward nearly 10,000, President Donald Trump has created a coronavirus task force to help combat the deadly and fast-spreading disease.
“The Task Force will lead the Administration’s efforts to monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus, while ensuring that the American people have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement issued late Wednesday.
She said members of the task force, headed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, have been gathering daily since Monday. President Trump chaired Wednesday’s meeting and tweeted photos of officials meeting at the White House.
“Just received a briefing on the Coronavirus in China from all of our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China,” Trump said in the posting. “We will continue to monitor the ongoing developments. We have the best experts anywhere in the world, and they are on top of it 24/7!”
Grisham’s statement said the task force includes “subject matter experts from the White House and several United States Government agencies, and it includes some of the Nation’s foremost experts on infectious diseases.”
Along with Azar, the group includes national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director and acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli.
The creation of the task force comes in the wake of several disturbing reports regarding the coronavirus. According to the Moscow Times, Russia has closed its border with China over coronavirus fears. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed an order on Thursday to close the border, which he says will be carried out immediately.
Meanwhile, at the outbreak’s epicenter in China, the death toll has risen to 170, and the total cases there have now surpassed the total in the 2002-2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic. Beijing has expressed confidence in defeating the “devil” virus, but experts say this outbreak will have a major economic impact on China.
Closer to home, a high school in West Palm Beach, Florida was ordered shut down, and all of its students and staff sent home, when it was feared that a group of students and faculty on a field trip, may have been exposed to the virus.
The group from The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens were at a model United Nations event at Yale University over the weekend, when a student fell ill with cough and fever. Testing indicated the flu, but because the student had come with a small group from China, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised additional testing for coronavirus. Yale cut its conference short and students headed home.
Currently, the World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting to determine whether the virus should be deemed a global emergency.