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Vice President Pence assures coronavirus infection ‘risk to Americans is low’

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 3/2/2020 Theresa Braine
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gives a news briefing about the coronavirus with members of the White House coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis © Reuters U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gives a news briefing about the coronavirus with members of the White House coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Vice President Pence, flanked by fellow members of the White House’s coronavirus task force, assured Americans Monday that “the risk is still low” for being infected with coronavirus.

He said treatments were being developed as well as a vaccine by “the finest minds” in the pharmaceutical and biomedical fields, and that therapeutics could be available later in the summer or early fall. While testing for a vaccine could begin as soon as six weeks from now, that would not be ready before next year, he added.

Pence also introduced Dr. Deborah Birx, the new coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, who “will be my right arm” in helping coordinate interagency efforts. She is also the State Department’s global AIDS director and holds the rank of ambassador.

The Trump administration earlier in the day had added Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to the task force as well.

“At the present moment we have 43 domestic cases of coronavirus,” Pence said, as well as 48 among individuals who had returned to the U.S. Of the 43, 29 are in California or Washington State, where there “could potentially be a cluster in those communities.”

The Vice President also extended condolences on behalf of the administration to the families of the six people who have died.

“Sadly today there were four additional fatalities, bringing the total to six Americans who have lost their lives,” Pence said. “We extend all our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of those who were lost.”

All that notwithstanding, Pence said, the risk is still low among the general public.

“Let’s be clear: The risk to the American people… remains low.”

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