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U.S. tightens travel restrictions as Trump says more coronavirus cases ‘likely’

Trump
President Trump speaks in the White House press briefing room on Saturday.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

The U.S. is banning travel to Iran in response to the outbreak of the new coronavirus and elevating travel warnings to regions of Italy and South Korea.

Vice President Mike Pence announced the new restrictions and warnings as President Trump said 22 people in the U.S. have been stricken by the new coronavirus and that additional cases are “likely.” Trump added that he was considering additional restrictions, including closing the U.S. border with Mexico in response to the virus’ spread.

“We want to lower the amount of travel to and from the most impacted areas,” said Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services. “This is a basic containment strategy.”

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Trump provided an update on the virus after the first reported U.S. death Saturday, of a patient he described as being in their late 50s with a high medical risk. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there was “no evidence of link to travel” to China, the outbreak’s epicenter, or to someone who did in the case of the Washington patient.

Trump, trying to reassure Americans and global markets spooked by the virus threat, said healthy people should be able to recover if they contract the new virus.

On Friday, health officials confirmed a second case of coronavirus in the U.S. in a person who didn’t travel internationally or have close contact with anyone who had the virus. The U.S. has a total of about 60 confirmed cases, though Trump put the figure much lower.

But Trump encouraged Americans not to alter their daily routines, saying “there’s no reason to panic at all.”

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He added he wasn’t altering his routine either. “You’re talking about 22 people right now in this whole very vast country. I think we’ll be in very good shape.”

The new coronavirus spreading rapidly around the globe can be deadly because it targets a very vulnerable and essential part of the body — the lungs.

Trump spoke a day after he denounced criticism of his response to the threat as a “hoax” cooked up by his political enemies. Speaking at a rally in South Carolina he accused Democrats of “politicizing” the coronavirus threat and boasted about preventive steps he’s ordered in an attempt to keep the virus that originated in China from spreading across the United States. Those steps include barring entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China.

“They tried the impeachment hoax. ... This is their new hoax,” Trump said of Democratic denunciations of his administration’s coronavirus response.

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Trump said Saturday he was not trying to minimize the threat of the virus.

“Again, the hoax was used in respect to Democrats and what they were saying,” he said.

Some Democrats have said Trump could have acted sooner to bolster the U.S. response to the virus. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also have said his request for an additional $2.5 billion to defend against the virus isn’t enough. They’ve signaled they will provide substantially more funding.

Trump said Democrats want him to fail and argued that steps he’s taken so far have kept cases to a minimum and prevented virus deaths in the U.S.


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