Vice President Mike Pence and other top health officials briefed reporters on the administration's latest efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, as four more deaths were announced in Washington state Monday. Top health officials said the current timeline for a vaccine being available to the public is likely the end of this year or beginning of next, after the president met with top pharmaceutical industry executives Monday afternoon.
A total of six people have died from the virus in the U.S. as of Monday, and there are 43 confirmed domestic cases — although outside experts think the real number of infected Americans is likely much higher. The vice president said that within the next 12 hours, all direct flights to the U.S. from all airports in Italy and South Korea will be screened for the virus, which will include multiple temperature readings.
Asked whether he would take a hypothetical vacation with his children to Disney World, Pence didn't answer directly, saying he continues to travel all the time for his job.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby told reporters he thinks they're close to reaching a deal on supplemental funding for combatting the coronavirus. The White House had requested $2.5 billion, which many lawmakers, including Republicans, saw as too small.
The Trump administration is trying to reassure the public the situation is under control, and Pence said the White House will hold briefings daily on the virus. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump will visit the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. And on Friday, he'll visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta.
Speaking in the Oval Office on Monday morning, the president said he will discuss efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine at his meeting with pharmaceutical executives. "We're talking about a vaccine, maybe even a cure," he said, although it's unclear how there could be a cure for a virus.
Pence is leading the administration's coronavirus response efforts, and tapped Ambassador Deborah Birx to assist him in responding to the crisis. Pence will be meeting with airline CEOs on Wednesday and cruise line CEOs Saturday as they look to contain the virus' spread.
The administration has emphasized that most healthy Americans, particularly young ones, should pull through if they do become infected.
"Additional cases in the United States are likely but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover, and we think that will be a statement that we can make with great surety now that we've gotten familiar with this problem," Mr. Trump told reporters in aSaturday. "They should be able to recover should they contract the virus. So healthy people, if you're healthy, you will probably go through a process and you'll be fine."