Live coronavirus news and updates: Coronavirus fears spread across the world – CNN
Despite public denials today, White House officials have privately weighed appointing a czar to oversee the administration’s response to the growing coronavirus outbreak.
President Trump has privately expressed frustration with his Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who has taken the lead on coordinating the response so far, and is blaming him for not keeping him updated enough, sources say.
Azar testified Wednesday that he has been in constant contact with the President and the acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. But Trump been particularly irked that he’s finding out about decisions after people complain to him about them, like the one to bring the Americans home from the cruise and the preliminary idea to house some patients at a FEMA facility in Alabama, which both the governor and representatives objected to directly to Trump.
The President has blamed Azar for not keeping him updated and allowing him to weigh in on crucial decisions, and has weighed selecting another point person as alarm about the outbreak is on the rise, though he has not followed through on it yet.
Lawmakers also called on Trump to appoint someone to oversee the response, which came up during a clash over the administration’s request for more coronavirus funding. Some White House officials accused HHS of requesting disproportionate amounts of money to cover up what one official described as Azar’s “mismanagement.”
Deputy press secretary Judd Deere denied reports about adding a czar Wednesday.
“This is not true! The President took decisive action by creating the Coronavirus Virus Task Force a month ago and is pleased with the leadership of @SecAzar to protect the public health.”
After the market tumbled early this week, Trump also questioned whether Azar is up to the challenge of handling the crisis.
While testifying Wednesday, Azar insisted a czar wasn’t necessary despite how the Obama administration appointed Ron Klain to oversee the Ebola virus response.
“It’s just the longstanding doctrine that this should be led by HHS with a public health emergency,” he told lawmakers. “The oddity was actually what President Obama did with the Ebola response.”
The President and other officials have also directed their anger at Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC official who has been a public face of the coronavirus response, for what officials claim is overly fatalistic messaging.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad,” she said at a news briefing this week. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen.”