President Donald Trump has expressed little concern over the Coronavirus outbreak, despite the World Health Organization ruling it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30.

Over 80,000 cases have been reported worldwide and the death toll has surpassed 2,700. Most of the reported deaths occurred in China, the country from which the disease originated.

The disease has not infiltrated the U.S. to the same extent: there are 60 confirmed cases that all arose from to travel to China or household contact with family members who recently traveled to China. The majority of citizens being treated in the U.S. were repatriated from high-risk areas. On Thursday, the first case without direct ties to China was reported in California.

Top health officials have been warning Americans to prepare for a spread in the U.S.


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The director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that coronavirus holds “pandemic potential.”

“Even developed countries could be surprised,” Ghebreyesus told ABC. “Our message continues to be that this virus has pandemic potential.”

“No country should assume it wouldn’t get cases. That could be a fatal mistake, quite literally,” he continued. “This virus does not respect borders. It does not distinguish between races or ethnicities. It has no regard for a country’s GDP or level of development. The point is not only to prevent cases arriving on your shores — the point is what you do when you have cases.”

Trump brushed off the disease as an issue that would be easily resolved.

“Just had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China. He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus,” Trump tweeted. “He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days.

He continued: “Nothing is easy, but he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone. Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!”

During his trip to India this week, Trump told reporters that the virus is “very well under control in our country” and “is going to go away,” a stark contrast from Ghebreyesus’s warning.

Trump announced on Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence will lead the administration’s response to the outbreak.

Pence has been criticized for his lack of qualifications to handle an issue of this scale and for his record on public health, including his mishandling of an HIV outbreak when he was governor of Indiana.

Gregg Gonsalves, assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale University, tweeted a long thread about why Pence is underqualified.

“Over 200 people were infected with HIV in an outbreak, met with ignorance, bumbling, incompetence and ideological intransigence. 200 needlessly infected, now on medication for life at great costs to themselves and the state,” he wrote about Pence’s mishandling of the Indiana outbreak.

He added, “[Trump] made the choice of putting someone absolutely not up to the task to this crucial position. It endangers us all. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue-we have the potential for coronavirus outbreak in the US & we needed to rise above the partisan fray. ”

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