Health officials shift tone on coronavirus, say elderly and sick at risk

Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who leads the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that healthy people should go about normal daily activities but noted, “If you are not healthy, think very seriously about attending places where there are crowds.”

Fauci’s emphatic warning about cruise ships came as public health officials prepared for the arrival of the Grand Princess, which has been held off the California coast due to a coronavirus outbreak and is due to dock at the Port of Oakland as soon as Monday, according to Princess Cruises and the California Office of Emergency Services.

Of the more than 3,500 people aboard, 19 crew members and two passengers have tested positive for coronavirus. More than 2,400 passengers will undergo health screenings, and about 1,000 California residents will be transferred to a federal facility for testing.

Former Trump FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicted the coming weeks will “change the complexion in this country,” adding that lockdowns of certain states or cities “are going to need to happen” or health systems will get exhausted and fatalities will rise quickly.

“We have a narrow window of opportunity to implement tough measures to try to push down the scope of the epidemic,” Gottlieb said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding Americans are probably looking at two months of “difficulty” as the virus rapidly spreads the way it did in Italy and South Korea.

The Associated Press reported late Saturday that the White House overruled a CDC warning that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines. Trump administration officials denied the report.

Current and former administration officials have said President Donald Trump’s eagerness to downplay bad news has undercut his own administration’s efforts to contain the outbreak. Meanwhile, there were more reports of the virus circulating in communities, with Washington, D.C., reporting its first known case.

Trump on Sunday took to Twitter to express confidence in his administration’s response and praised Pence for leading the effort.

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday criticized Trump’s communication around the outbreak but also praised Pence and the rest of his team. “Has the president been perfect in his communication? I would say he hasn’t communicated the way I would, and the way I might like him to,” Hogan said on “Meet the Press.” “But I think the rest of the team has been doing a pretty good job.”

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that local leaders have to consider whether to cancel large gatherings, and evaluate telework policies and school closings.

“We’re shifting into a mitigation phase, which means that we’re helping communities understand, you’re going to see more cases. Unfortunately, you’re going to see more deaths,” Adams said.

Fauci said health officials still hope the coronavirus will burn itself out the way SARS outbreak did in 2003. But he said the coronavirus could reappear seasonally, necessitating a vaccine he said is at least a year away from being deployed.

Victoria Guida and Victoria Colliver contributed to this report.