President Trump Says First U.S. Coronavirus Death Was ‘High-Risk Patient’

President Donald Trump said the first U.S. patient to die from the coronavirus was a “medically high-risk patient in her late 50s” in Washington state, and said additional cases are likely.

The U.S. is expanding travel restrictions, including for Iran and Iranian citizens, and any foreign national who has visited Iran in the past two weeks, said Vice President Mike Pence, who heads Trump’s coronavirus task force. Americans will also be advised not to travel to the areas of Italy and South Korea that are most affected by the virus.

Trump and Pence spoke Saturday at a White House press conference the president announced by tweet less then two hours beforehand. Trump for days has talked down the risk of the virus amid a market selloff and rapidly rising global cases. In Italy, for example, confirmed cases totaled 1,100 on Saturday.

Some 22 patients in the U.S. have coronavirus and additional cases are likely, Trump said, flanked by officials including the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

Four ‘Very Ill’

Trump’s coronavirus task force met Saturday and brought the president a range of options, Pence said; the new travel restrictions and advisory were the result. That move was “a basic containment strategy,” Azar said.

Healthy individuals in the U.S. should be able to full recover from coronavirus, Trump said. At present, four are “very ill” in addition to the one fatality.

Trump said he’d meet with pharmaceutical executives at the White House on Monday about progress toward a vaccine.

“We’re going to continue to lean into this effort,” Pence said. Average Americans don’t need to rush out and buy surgical masks, he said.

At the start of the week, Trump and his top economic adviser Larry Kudlow encouraged stock market investors to buy the dip — but markets kept plunging. The benchmark S&P 500 index dropped 11% for the week, its most since October 2008, to hit a five-month low.

Trump’s public statements have been at odds with that of U.S. health officials, who’ve issued a series of warnings. Trump has blamed media for, in his view, over-stoking fears of the virus, and Democrats.

“This is their new hoax,” he said of the Democratic Party at a rally in South Carolina on Friday night.

Asked about the comment on Saturday, Trump declined to back down. “Hoax was referring to the action” Democrats are taking to “try to pin this on somebody,” Trump said.

That has raised concerns that the Trump administration is unable to pivot from partisan fights like the recently-concluded impeachment investigation to provide reassurance to Americans as a whole.

Read more rolling coverage of coronavirus.

Trump said on Friday he was considering expanded travel restrictions for a few countries, beyond those imposed a month ago on China. Italy’s confirmed coronavirus infections topped 1,000 on Saturday, while China’s Xi Jinping scrapped a rare trip to Japan.

In the U.S., the administration has loosened rules to accelerate testing, while the U.S. surgeon general asked people to stop buying masks. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said the U.S. may need to buy millions of masks and pieces of personal protective equipment.

Azar said Friday he’swilling to use the Defense Production Act to fast-track manufacturing as needed; as of Friday, he said that wasn’t yet necessary.

— With assistance by Mario Parker

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