With several cases in Texas, coronavirus is topic in Democratic presidential debate

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During Tuesday’s Democratic debate, presidential candidates spoke to Americans about the seriousness of coronavirus and how to respond to the emerging pandemic overseas. 

Several candidates on the stage in Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday night slammed Trump’s overall handling of the virus and public health more generally.

“You read about the [coronavirus] and what’s really happening here is the president fired the pandemic specialist in this country two years ago, so there’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing,” Mike Bloomberg said. “He’s defunded Centers for Disease Control, so we don’t have the organization we need. This is a very serious thing. As you see, the stock market is falling apart and people are very worried and they should be.“

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to his experience in the Obama administration handling the outbreak of Ebola.

“What we did with Ebola, I was part of making sure that pandemic did not get to the United States, saved millions of lives,” Biden said. “I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country [for the coronavirus], you have to be open.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders mocked Trump, whom he called a “self-described great genius,” for believing the virus would simply go away and stressed working with other countries to respond to coronavirus outbreaks.

The debate questions over the disease comes the same day as a briefing by the Centers for Disease Control that warned Americans to prepare for the reality of the spread of coronavirus in the U.S.

“Current global circumstances suggest it’s likely this virus will cause a pandemic,” Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC told reporters at a news briefing. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of when this will happen and how many people in this country will become infected and how many of those will develop severe or more complicated disease.”

In the briefing, the agency said it would focus on how to contain the virus in the U.S. and urged businesses and schools to have a plan in place. 

The briefing comes a day after the White House asked Congress for $1.25 billion in additional funding to fight the virus. It also comes as Trump’s latest proposed budget shows major cuts to the CDC and National Institutes of Health.

In Texas, there have been “multiple” cases of coronavirus so far, according to health officials. All of these cases are quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. A total of 36 cases have been confirmed throughout the U.S.

“The risk for all Texans remains low,” said Texas health officials in a Feb. 24 update.

As the potential threat makes headlines, the president has been spreading false or misleading information, including telling reporters in a press conference in India that the virus is “a problem that’s going to go away” (it’s spread in recent weeks) and also telling reporters health officials were close to a vaccine, despite there being no evidence or statements by the CDC that would suggest that. 

This week, Trump was also furious that Americans on board a cruise ship — where an outbreak of the virus occurred earlier this month—were allowed to re-enter the U. S.—a decision his administration OK’d. 

He became defensive on Tuesday night after the debate, tweeting that his administration is doing a “GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images. Getty caption: A disinfection professional wears protective gear spray anti-septic solution against the coronavirus (COVID-19) at a traditional market on February 26, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

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