The group will lead the Trump administration’s efforts to “monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus” and give Americans accurate and up-to-date health and travel information related to the 2019 novel coronavirus, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, who held a press conference giving an update on the virus earlier this week, is leading the task force. Other members include national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
Just received a briefing on the Coronavirus in China from all of our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China. 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! pic.twitter.com/rrtF1Stk78
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2020
The task force is being coordinated through the National Security Council and has been meeting daily. Trump, who chaired a Jan. 26 meeting, said in a social media post that he received a briefing on the Wuhan coronavirus “from all of our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China.
“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!” he added.
Out of 165 people being monitored across 36 U.S. states, 68 have tested negative and five have tested positive. The confirmed cases are in Washington state, California, Arizona, and Illinois.
The virus originated in Wuhan, China, a city of about 11 million people.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, some of which cause illness in people and others that circulate among animals. In rare cases, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people before spreading between people.
In two previous cases, the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) spread to humans from camels, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spread to humans from civet cats. Experts aren’t yet sure of the origin of the new coronavirus, although it bears similarities to a bat coronavirus.
Human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus has been confirmed in multiple countries, including Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States.
“When person-to-person spread has occurred with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread,” the CDC said on its website.
Worldwide, the virus has spread to 22 countries and territories, including France, Finland, Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Philippines, and Thailand.