Vice President Pence announced the new steps alongside Trump and other U.S. health officials at a White House briefing with reporters on Saturday afternoon.
Pence said Trump had authorized a ban on foreign nationals who have traveled to Iran in the last 14 days. The State Department is also working with the Italian and South Korean governments to enhance screenings in those countries of individuals traveling to the U.S.
Pence also said the State Department has raised the travel advisory on specific regions in South Korea and Italy to the highest level, warning Americans not to travel there.
Trump acknowledged the first death in the United States due to the coronavirus during his own remarks and said that his administration expected more cases while insisting there was “no reason to panic.”
His remarks came after health officials in Washington state said one person had died from the virus, representing the first death from from the disease in the United States.
“Unfortunately one person passed away overnight. She was a wonderful woman, a medically high-risk patient in her late 50s,” Trump told reporters in the White House briefing room, his second appearance there in the past four days. Washington state officials later described the person as a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions.
“Additional cases in the United States are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover,” Trump said. “If you’re healthy, you will probably go through a process and you’ll be fine.”
The president also urged the news media and politicians to “not do anything to incite the panic.”
“There is no reason to panic at all,” Trump said. “Our country is prepared for any circumstance.”
Trump, who began his remarks by addressing the deal between the U.S. and the Taliban, was joined by officials including Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“They have been working around the clock so hard on the coronavirus. It’s a tough one, but a lot of progress has been made,” Trump said of the officials at the briefing. He asserted his administration has taken the “most aggressive action in modern history to confront this disease.”
Fauci and others described the current risk to the American public as low but noted the situation was evolving and that more cases were expected.
Worldwide, 15 to 20 percent of those who contract the coronavirus go on to need advanced medical care, Fauci said. The elderly and people with underlying health conditions are the most likely to die, he added, but for everyone else, the virus feels more like a bad flu or cold.
Trump has sought to ease concerns about the threat of the virus in recent days as U.S. health officials have warned of its likely spread in the United States. He has hailed his administration’s decision to restrict travel from China and at times emphasized that no one in the U.S. has died from the virus.
While the outbreak in the U.S. hasn’t matched those in other countries, concerns over the spread of the virus have deepened over the past week. Three cases of unexplained origin were reported in Washington state, Oregon and California on Friday, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. to 65. Of those cases, 45 were confirmed in Americans who were repatriated from the Princess Diamond cruise ship.
Meanwhile, the U.S. stock market endured steep declines over the past week amid growing concerns about the virus, which has spread to people in more than 50 countries.
The Food and Drug Administration announced new guidance earlier Saturday aimed at speeding up labs’ ability to test for the virus.
Trump said during a news conference Wednesday that he didn’t believe the spread of the virus was inevitable but insisted his administration was prepared to handle the situation.
Trump on Wednesday tapped Pence to lead the administration’s response to the coronavirus, and Pence has brought on a career health official from the State Department to coordinate the response.
Aspects of the administration’s response efforts as well as Trump’s comments Wednesday downplaying the threat of the virus have faced criticism from Democrats and some health experts.
Addressing supporters at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Friday evening, Trump slammed Democrats over their criticism, calling it a “hoax” and accusing them of “politicizing the coronavirus.”
Trump defended his rhetoric during the briefing on Saturday when questioned about it, noting he was referring to Democrats' criticism and not the virus itself.
“Certainly not referring to this,” Trump said. “This is very serious, but the way they referred to it.”
“I don’t like it when they are criticizing these people, and that’s the hoax,” Trump continued.