“We know there will be thousands more cases of coronavirus in this country,” Pence said on Thursday.
The head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force was speaking during an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show hours after President Donald Trump announced a ban on travelers from many European countries.
The move came “because we know there will be more infections in the days ahead,” Pence said. “We’re trying to hold that number down.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top American health official, told lawmakers on Wednesday that the virus will get worse.
“How much worse we’ll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country,” he said.
Nearly 1,000 cases have been confirmed in the United States as of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, including dozens of deaths, most in Washington state.
The virus is more lethal than the seasonal flu, Pence said, echoing health experts. He noted that the virus is most dangerous to older people or those with underlying health conditions.
“It does not present as much a threat to younger Americans,” he said, citing health experts on the task force, which includes Fauci.
“But for senior citizens with serious underlying health conditions, it represents a threat of very serious consequences,” he said.
Most patients with the virus will experience flu-like symptoms and then recover but the illness can be deadly for the elderly and people with conditions.
The risk to the average American remains low, Pence said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.” Trump on Wednesday night said that for the “vast majority of Americans,” the risk “is very, very low.”
“Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus. The highest risk is for elderly population with underlying health conditions. The elderly population must be very, very careful,” he added.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The incubation period of the new virus is between one day and two weeks.
There is no vaccine or proven treatment at this time.
Experts say ways to avoid contracting the illness include frequently washing hands, avoiding crowds and sick people, and regularly cleaning highly-touched objects and surfaces.
Sick people should stay home and contact their doctor or health authorities.