WASHINGTON – President Trump held a White House news conference Wednesday evening where he and top members of his administration took questions from reporters and tried to calm growing public fears.
"The number one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people," Trump said from the podium.
Right now there are 59 confirmed cases in the United States, one of those in California where health officials are not sure where the person contracted the illness.
Globally, 80,000 people have been infected and the virus has spread to 47 countries. It's on every continent other than Antarctica.
"We're very ready for this," Trump told reporters. "Whether it's going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not, you know, we're at that very low level."
In a surprise move, he also announced Vice President Pence will lead the US response to the outbreak.
"I look forward to serving in this role and bringing together all the members of the corona task force," Pence said.
On Capitol Hill, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the risk in the US is "low at the moment," adding though that the situation "could change quickly."
The National Institutes of Health says that while a vaccine is in the works, it won't be available for several months.
The best way to contain the spread of the virus is through public health measures and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on states, businesses and public entities to draw on its resources.
"We're in this together, all of government, the public and private sector and the CDC wants to make sure you have the best information available," said Trump.
He says Congress wants to give more than $2.5 billion he's requested and at Wednesday's news conference he also criticized Democrats for making it political.
"What he's doing is late, too late, anemic," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters on Capitol Hill. "Hopefully we can make up for the loss of time."
So far, Americans seem to be heeding the warnings. At the Los Angeles International Airport, health officials were disinfecting surfaces after a Korean Airlines flight attendant tested positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, on Long Island, New York, more than 80 people are under self-quarantine after possible exposure.