Trump Is 'Ignorant' About Coronavirus and Doesn't Understand Public Health, WHO Official Warns

President Donald Trump's response to the spread of coronavirus proves he does not understand the danger nor how to slow the outbreak, a World Health Organization (WHO) official has warned.

WHO Special Adviser to the Director Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel told MSNBC Wednesday that Trump's briefing on the virus was largely "incoherent" and betrayed how little the president knows about the challenges facing public health.

Trump announced Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence—who has been criticized for an anti-science stance on issues including an HIV outbreak in Indiana—will lead the response to the outbreak. The president maintained that the risk to Americans is "very low" and that the country is "ready" to respond.

Trump compared the COVID-2019 strain to the flu and said he was surprised to learn that regular flu kills between 25,000 and 69,000 people in the U.S. each year.

But the briefing did not elicit much confidence among experts, including Emanuel. He told MSNBC host Chris Matthews that most of what Trump said was "a little incoherent."

Trump's surprise at the impact of flu revealed more about public health and about the health of the American public," Emanuel added. "Every doctor knows that and lots of health policy experts know that."

Emanuel said the president was wrong to conflate coronavirus with the flu. "We don't know how similar or dissimilar this is to the flu," he explained. "We know one thing, it actually is more communicable than the flu, it passes between people very, very easily."

There is not yet enough data to know how deadly this outbreak is, Emanuel added, noting that experts currently believe mortality is around 2.5 to 3 percent, though the real number could be lower as more mild cases are not being reported.

Regardless, Trump was wrong to underplay the risk, Emanuel suggested. "He just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation," he said.

Emanuel said he "didn't hear any response" to the major questions now facing the U.S. He suggested that more people need to get flu vaccines, wash their hands "thoroughly" for 20 seconds regularly, and if they feel ill they should stay at home to avoid infecting colleagues.

He also noted concerns that medical supply chains could be affected by disruption in China. There is, Emanuel explained, "no evidence that the president or people around him that have been planning this have been taking this seriously."

There have been 60 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., with no deaths. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has identified what could be the first case in someone who had not visited an affected region, meaning human-to-human transmission is occurring.

The CDC said further spread of the virus is now "inevitable," though Trump disagreed with the agency's conclusion.

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DoPresident Donald Trump takes questions during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 26, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Getty