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White House Issues New Virus Travel Warnings

Trump defends use of word 'hoax' when describing Democrats' reactions
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2020 3:40 PM CST

(Newser) – The Trump administration has news for Americans: Watch where you go, USA Today reports. With the coronavirus spreading, President Trump gave a press conference Saturday flanked by relevant officials—including Vice President Mike Pence, who said the US travel warning is now at level 4 (the highest) for travel to parts of Italy and South Korea. He also announced that an existing travel ban on Iran will include foreign nationals who've been there the past two weeks. The "president has also directed the State Department to work with our allies in Italy and in South Korea to coordinate a screening, a medical screening, in their countries of any individuals that are coming in to the United States of America," said Pence. Among other details:

  • The 'hoax': President Trump defended his calling the virus the Democrats' "new hoax," the Guardian reports. "The hoax is on them. I'm not talking about what’s happening here. I don't like it when they are criticising [federal health officials], and that's the hoax."

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  • Don't panic: Trump also advised people not to overreact, per Politico. "If you are healthy, you will probably go through a process and you'll be fine," he said, noting that 15 US patients with the virus have already recovered.
  • Regions: The Italy advisory is for two regions, Veneto (home to Venice) and Lombardy (which includes Milan). Media reports aren't naming the relevant parts of South Korea, but Al Jazeera notes that Seoul has the biggest coronavirus problem outside of China. Business Insider counts up to 3,150 infected and 17 dead from the virus in South Korea.
  • First US death: Trump referred to America's first coronavirus fatality, a Washington state resident, as a "medically high-risk patient" and a "wonderful woman" in her late 50s, the Washington Post reports.
  • Local cases: More cases of likely "community transmission" (not from travel or contact with someone known to have the virus) have cropped up, with three in Washington state, one in Oregon, and a second in California. Washington state declared a state of emergency Saturday, the AP reports.
  • New testing: The FDA has increased coronavirus testing by enabling some hospital labs to use their own tests before getting FDA approval, per the Post. Meanwhile the surgeon general is urging people to "stop buying masks" because they're not effective for the general public but are needed for healthcare providers.
  • Iran's elite: France is banning any event that includes over 5,000 people in enclosed spaces, the New York Times reports. In Iran the elite are getting infected, with five Parliament members testing positive. Trump says he's willing to "help the Iranians," adding, "All they have to do is ask."
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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