National Economic Director Larry Kudlow on Tuesday claimed the coronavirus is “contained” in the United States after public health officials warned earlier in the day that the virus will likely begin spreading throughout the country.
“We have contained this,” Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, said during an interview with CNBC. “I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight.”
“This is a human tragedy,” he continued. “That’s the worst part of this. The business side and the economic side ― I don’t think it’s going to be an economic tragedy at all.”
Kudlow spoke as financial markets sharply declined for a second day as investors speculated how the virus, named COVID-19, might affect the global economy.
His statement appeared at odds with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s assessment during a news conference earlier Tuesday, where officials warned of a potential pandemic.
“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It’s more of a question of when.”
Messonnier called on communities to prepare for potential outbreaks.
“The disruption of daily life might be severe,” she said.
The death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 2,700 worldwide as of Tuesday afternoon, with the vast majority of cases in mainland China. The virus is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. China has reported more than 77,000 confirmed cases.
At least 53 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus, according to the CDC’s website. At least 36 of those people were infected while onboard a cruise ship.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30.
Democrats and health experts condemned Kudlow for spreading misinformation about the virus. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) called the White House adviser’s containment claim “dangerous.”
“Trump cut CDC by 9 percent,” Schatz tweeted, referring to the White House’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021.
“Trump eliminated the position at the global health security teams at the [National Security Council] and the [Department of Homeland Security],” he added. “They don’t know what they are doing. They are fixated on the politics and the stock market.”
Trump has also downplayed the coronavirus’ potential spread in the U.S. He said during a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday that the virus is “very well under control in our country.”
“We have very few people with it,” the president said during his trip to India.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross drew backlash last month when he suggested the deadly virus could “help to accelerate the return of jobs” to the U.S.
“The fact is it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain,” Ross said during an interview on Fox Business. “It’s another risk factor that people need to take into account. So I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America ― some to U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.”
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.