HHS Secretary Defends President Trump at Coronavirus Hearing: ‘He Didn’t Say’ Virus Will Just Go Away

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 25: HHS Secretary Alex Azar speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing on the administration's response to COVID-19 at the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters on February 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Trump administration has requested $2.5 billion to help combat the …
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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar corrected the record when a lawmaker misrepresented what President Donald Trump has said about the coronavirus at a House hearing on Wednesday.

“All of you know the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency and our administration now has declared it a public health emergency,” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said. “Secretary Azar, we talk about this.”

“The Trump administration asked Congress for just $2.5 billion to combat the disease,” Schakowsky said.

Schakowsky then criticized the Trump administration’s idea to move some ebola funding to fight the coronavirus:

You suggested robbing $500 million from the United States response to the ebola epidemic, which is actually still raging in some places. So I find it incomprehensible that you are asking for a molehill when what we really need is a mountain of support here.

Mr. Azar … do you agree with the president of the United States that the coronavirus is very much under control in the United States and will, quote ‘go away in the spring?’

“He did not say the last part that you just said,” Azar said. “He said he hopes it will go away with warmer weather.”

“I would hope everyone would hope it would go away with warmer weather,” Azar said, adding that the coronavirus is in a “contained” status right now in the United States.”

Azar added that could change and that there will likely to be more cases in the U.S.

Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) also said Trump said the virus “goes away in April” when questioning Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at the hearing.

“I do have an ABC News story [to] enter into the record where it quotes the president of saying directly that it’s a problem that is going to go away,” Kennedy said.

“Dr. Fauci, does this go away in April with the heat?” Kennedy asked.

“The history of respiratory viruses and other coronaviruses tend to diminish and almost disappear as you get into summer,” Fauci said. It’s just something that happens every year.”

“We see that with influenza,” Fauci said, but added that health experts don’t know the course of this new virus.

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) said in the final moments of the more than 4-hour hearing:

I just want to comment briefly on the criticism of the president and what he has said. If the president of the United States comes out and incites panic in the United States and incites a worldwide panic — I see the role of the president as different than mine or Secretary Azar’s or others.

“I do think having a calming affect in a situation like this is appropriate and allow the professionals behind the scenes to do their job,” Bucshon said.

“I agree entirely,” Azar said. “I think the president’s role has been actually critical in keeping the calm in this situation.”

“He’s expressed the levels of doubt and uncertainty with his words that we have, but also tried to reassure the American public,” Azar said.

“We all have a role to play,” Azar said.

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