Sen. Mitt Romney: Trump administration ‘substantially’ unprepared for coronavirus outbreak in the United States

(CDC via AP | File photo illustration) This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Health officials hope to avoid stigma and error in naming the virus causing an international outbreak of respiratory illnesses. But some researchers say the current moniker, 2019 nCoV, which stands for 2019 novel coronavirus, probably won't stick in the public's mind.

Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney says the Trump administration is ill-prepared for the possibility the coronavirus may spread in the United States and “should be pulling out all the stops.”

The Utah Republican also said the government should name a point person to oversee the fallout from the virus that’s killed thousands in China and has infected hundreds more in Asia, Europe and the Americas.

After a closed-door briefing by U.S. health officials, Romney warned that America hadn't focused enough on preparing for the virus to spread widely and has failed for years to stockpile medical supplies in case of a global pandemic.

I’m very disappointed in the degree to which we’ve prepared for a pandemic, both in terms of protective equipment and in terms of medical devices that would help people once they are infected,” Romney told reporters.

U.S. health officials said Tuesday that it was inevitable the virus — discovered in China where 70,000 people have been reported affected and about 2,400 killed — would spread across America. So far, about 57 cases in America have been diagnosed, though many were infected abroad.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there could be a dangerous outbreak inside the United States.

“Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”

Romney said he's worried the federal government isn't prepared even after such dire warnings.

“At this stage, I think we are substantially underinvesting in what would be appropriate,” the senator said.

“I think we should be pulling out all the stops,” he added.

Romney was one of several members of Congress who want President Donald Trump to make combatting the virus a top priority even as the president has been downplaying the consequences of the outbreak.

“I think we should have a single person that's coordinating the effort across agencies,” Romney said.

Trump, meanwhile, says the U.S. government is “doing a great job” to keep people safe.

“You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country,” Trump said in India where he was visiting. “We have very few people with it.”

The president said those Americans who are affected “are getting better, they’re all getting better.”