According to Mike Pence, the novel coronavirus disease now known as COVID-19 is poised to spread.
The vice president told NBC News’ Chuck Todd on Sunday that “there’s no question” more cases of the disease will pop up in the U.S., according to The Hill. However, Pence stressed, the risk to the public “remains low.”
“A whole-of-government approach”
President Donald Trump tapped Pence last week to head up the administration’s coronavirus task force, which is charged with managing the government’s response to COVID-19. Speaking with Meet The Press Sunday morning, Pence said the Trump administration is all-in on efforts to contain and combat the disease.
“The president has made it clear that this is a whole-of-government approach,” Pence said, according to The Hill. “We’re going to bring the best scientific minds, experts together, and we’re going to, we’re going to work every day to, to contain this disease, to treat those that are contracted… And I’m very confident we’re ready, and I know, and I know that we’ll get through this.”
The death toll in the U.S. from COVID-19 rose to six on Monday, according to CBS News. “The disease has killed more than 3,000 people globally and infected almost 89,000,” CBS reported, “with the vast majority of cases and deaths in China.”
Making America safe
As CBS noted, the first death from the coronavirus in the U.S. occurred over the weekend in Washington state. Trump administration officials responded with a press conference Saturday in which they expressed their condolences to the deceased patient’s family.
“I want to assure that family that they’re on the hearts of every American,” Pence said at the briefing, according to a transcript provided by the White House. “And those that are continuing to struggle — in some cases, in ICU units — can be assured of the prayers of millions of Americans.”
Pence also announced in that talk that the U.S. would be implementing new travel restrictions and advisories to countries where COVID-19 has become widespread, including Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
“While the risk to Americans remains low, the president’s actions today with regard to Iran, with regard to Italy and South Korea…I hope gives evidence to the fact that, at his direction, we’re going to continue to lean into this effort and put the health and safety of the American people first,” Pence said, according to the transcript.
Speaking to Todd the next day, Pence said the federal government is working with state and local officials to identify how the first U.S. patient to die from COVID-19 contracted the disease.
“The process, Chuck, is that state and local officials are in the lead, but in instances involving the coronavirus or any infectious disease, we have [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] on the ground immediately to assist and support. And they’re working to identify it,” Pence said, according to The Hill.
However, the vice president made clear that the Trump administration will be taking a hands-off approach when it comes to local matters, saying decisions like school closures will be made by “governors in consultation with local health officials.” Still, he insisted, the American public doesn’t have reason to panic just yet.
“Other than in areas where there are individuals that have been infected with the coronavirus, people need to understand that for the average American, the risk does remain low,” Pence said, according to The Hill. “We’re ready.”