President Trump on Wednesday, Jan. 29, announced the formation of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force in response to the novel 2019 coronavirus, according to the White House.

The Task Force is led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and is coordinated through the National Security Council. Members of the task force have been meeting on a daily basis since Monday. 

“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,” according to a statement from the White House.

The 12-member group includes National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, and the National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, listens as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addresses a briefing on the latest information about the Coronavirus Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in the Situation Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
President Donald Trump, joined by White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to the president’s immediate left, listens as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (4th to the president’s left), addresses a briefing on the latest information about the coronavirus, on Jan. 29, 2020, in the Situation Room of the White House. (Joyce N. Boghosian/Official White House Photo)

“The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and all agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation and to keep the public informed,” the statement added.

To Jan. 31, the coronavirus has killed more than 213 people in China, and 9,300 people have been infected. While the outbreak started in Wuhan, China, more than 98 cases have been confirmed in other 19 countries, including the United States, according to the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control said that as of Wednesday, five patients in four states had tested positive, though specimens from 36 states were being tested.

Total confirmed cases by date. (Source: WHO)

President Trump also said in a tweet that he attended a briefing on the coronavirus and lauded the U.S. experts monitoring of the outbreak.

“Just received a briefing on the coronavirus in China from all of our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China,” he said. “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!”

Warning U.S. citizens not to travel to China

The US State Department has increased its travel advisory for China. In a notice posted on its website, the State Department said: “Do not travel to China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China.”

“On January 30, the World Health Organization has determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.  Commercial carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China,” it added.

The advice also says those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means.

The Department of State has also requested that all non-essential US government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus.

Calling for shutting down flights between China and US

Two members of Congress, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallgher (R-Wis.), called for shutting down travel between China and the United States amid the recent coronavirus outbreak.

“Russia has closed its ENTIRE 2,600-mile border with China. Time to shut down travel between China and US,” Cotton said on Twitter early Thursday.

“China, but also Germany, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan: all countries with person-to-person transmission of coronavirus. Meanwhile, flights from China are landing in the U.S. every hour. This has to stop,” he said the previous day.

In addition, Gallagher asserted that the United States needs “a targeted travel ban.”

“Also it is abundantly clear that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is not being fully transparent about the origins and scale of the crisis. China has also refused the help of CDC experts for almost a month. We can’t let the CCP’s insecurity endanger the world,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Americans evacuated from the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan have voluntarily stayed in isolation at a Californian air force base for medical evaluations, federal health officials said on Jan. 29.

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