President Donald Trump plans to visit the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Friday after all, after initially scrapping the trip over concerns that a staffer at the agency had contracted the coronavirus.
The president is set to land at Dobbins Air Reserve Base around 3:20 p.m. after a trip to tornado-ravaged Tennessee. He’s expected to return to the Marietta airfield at 5:15 p.m to fly to a fundraiser in Florida later Friday afternoon.
Trump told reporters that the visit was canceled Friday morning because someone at the CDC suspected they had the virus, but it was put back on his schedule after the individual was tested and it came back negative.
Adding to the confusion, a White House official initially said the trip was scrapped because Trump didn’t want to “interfere” with the CDC’s disease-fighting work.
The back-and-forth triggered confusion among state and federal officials who scrambled to figure out if he was actually set to arrive on Friday. Even high-ranking politicians were left in the dark.
The trip was scheduled to highlight the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus, an illness that has been linked to 11 deaths in the U.S. and nearly 200 confirmed cases across the nation.
Trump on Friday signed an $8.3 billion package of emergency aid for coronavirus response, and his administration has recently warned Americans not to travel to parts of Italy and South Korea where there have been outbreaks of the disease.
The president has faced criticism for trivializing the extent of the threat and for fuming at Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official, after she spoke of the likelihood of a potential outbreak in the U.S.
The CDC, too, has faced intense scrutiny over its approach to the illness. Lawmakers grilled CDC officials about the Atlanta-based agency’s response to the outbreak this week, and experts have sharply criticized its strategy.
The illness has spurred worldwide economic anxiety and triggered sharp fluctuations in the stock market. Several states have declared emergencies, including California, though Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday it’s too early to take the same measure in Georgia.
The governor announced earlier this week that two people in Fulton County are the first in Georgia to test positive for the illness. The two showed symptoms of the illness shortly after one returned to Georgia from a trip to the Italian city of Milan.
The illness, known as COVID-19, is characterized by fever and coughing and, sometimes, pneumonia and shortness of breath. Around the world, there were about 98,000 cases and more than 3,300 deaths from the virus, most of them in China.
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