Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday downplayed the threat of the Wuhan coronavirus, implying the illness would not be as destructive as other epidemics seen in the past few decades.
Mulvaney, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, responded to a reporter’s question about how the White House plans to stabilize stock markets, which have been jolted by fears of outbreaks of the coronavirus.
“What I might do to calm the markets is turn the television off for 24 hours,” Mulvaney said. “This is not Ebola. It’s not SARS. It’s not MERS.”
The largest Ebola epidemic so far, recorded in West Africa from 2014-2016, resulted in almost 29,000 cases with over 11,300 deaths. The average mortality rate of Ebola is about 50 percent.
Mulvaney also accused the news media of covering the coronavirus outbreak to take down President Trump.
“The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be the thing that brings down the president,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Meanwhile, global markets have fallen precipitously in the wake of the illness’s spread, culminating in the worst crash since the 2008 financial crisis. The outbreak in China has reduced production of various goods, such as the Apple iPhone, while Tesla has shuttered its Shanghai factory.
The Trump administration is struggling to control fallout from the outbreak after several reports have emerged detailing possible bureaucratic errors in the containment of the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control confirmed Wednesday that it had initially refused to test a patient for the illness because the patient did not meet the agency’s criteria for testing. That patient has since tested positive for coronavirus, the first case in the U.S. with “unknown” origins.
On Thursday, a Department of Health and Human Services whistleblower alleged personnel from her agency, as well as from the Administration for Children and Families, were “improperly deployed” to receive quarantined individuals without protective gear. ACF personnel were sent to a quarantine site in Solano County, Calif., the same place where the CDC confirmed the case of coronavirus with “unknown’ origins.